Sleep Hack: Use the Sleep Cycle for a Good Night's Rest*

Thursday, 24 March 2016, By William McAndrew

Did you know that humans are the only mammals that actively avoid sleep? 

Given that sleep is as important as food, water and even oxygen, why would we do something so crazy? And why is it that we often seem to trudge through the day, tired in some way?

Here we will try to understand a little bit more about sleep and discuss how much sleep is enough.

Many have believed that sleep was a time for our mind and body to naturally shut down. However, modern science has enlightened us that sleep is, in fact, a time for your body to perform a vast range of biological maintenance processes that allow your body to repair physically and prepare you for the tasks that lay ahead when you wake up. This is why a seemingly simple lack of sleep can impede all fundamental processes - both mental and physical, that an individual needs to be at their peak each day. 

How much sleep is enough?

Recent studies have suggested that although humans can function on as little as 6 hours a night, we need somewhere in the range of 7.5-9hrs to operate at a higher level. However, just because an individual can function on a lower amount of sleep, doesn't mean that this is good for them. An increase in sleep by as little as an extra hour each night can vastly improve an individual's physical and mental being for the day ahead.

So it's as simple as sleeping 8 hours each and every night, right? Not quite.

Just because you can sleep for a solid 8 hours each night doesn't necessarily mean that you are safe. It is all about the quality of the sleep, which you acquire within that time that makes a difference. For this, we need to understand the stages of sleep themselves - Non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and REM Sleep:

Non-REM SLEEP Stage 1

Stage N1 - Transition to sleep. Lasts for about 5 minutes. Your eyes move slowly under the eyelids; muscle activity slows, and you are easily awakened.
Stage N2 - Light Sleep. First stage of proper sleep. Lasts from 10-25 minutes. Eye movement stops, heart rate slows and body temperature decreases.
Stage N3 - Deep Sleep. Hard to awaken. If awoken, feel 'groggy' and disorientated for several minutes. In this stage, brain waves are slow; blood flow is directed towards your muscles for recovery and physical restoration.


REM SLEEP Stage 2

REM Sleep - Deep Sleep. About 70-90 minutes after falling asleep. This is where dreaming occurs. Your eyes move rapidly, breathing slows substantially, heart rate and blood pressure increase. Arms and legs are also paralysed during this stage.

The combination of these two stages of sleep is called a sleep cycle - each lasting around 90 minutes. They repeat 4-6 times over the course of a night. If you are a person who finds it hard to get out of bed when setting an alarm, here is a trick:

Try setting your alarm to revolve in cycles of 90 minutes. For example, if you typically go to bed at 10 pm, set your alarm for 5:30 am. Even though you may get 30-60 minutes less sleep, you may feel far more refreshed as a result of not starting another complete sleep cycle!

So, how much sleep is enough? 

Well provided your sleep quality is high and consistent, individuals should be aiming for anywhere between 7.5-9hours each night. If you particularly struggle to get out of bed each morning, then try to set your alarm clock in sync with 90-minute sleep cycles, so you wake up at the end of a 90-minute cycle rather than half way through a new one. This should have you bouncing out of bed, and ready to race over to Vision, for your early morning PT session!

This is an excellent link that myself and fellow trainers have used to follow the 90-minute sleep cycle theory http://sleep-calculator.com

William McAndrew is a Senior Personal Trainer at Vision Personal Training Randwick and has been in the health and fitness industry for over 10 years. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Health and Exercise Science and is currently studying a Masters of Exercise Science. Living a healthy and active lifestyle is a passion of Will's and he would love to help you live the fittest and healthiest life possible. Our Vision studio covers all the Eastern Suburbs localities from the beach suburbs of Coogee, Clovelly and Maroubra through to Pagewood, Kingsford, Randwick and Kensington. Just give us a call on 9399-5050 or book online for a free consultation /studios/randwick

 

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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