One subject that is particularly interesting to me as of late is sleep, not just how many hours but also what counts as quality sleep. I know many people claim to have a bedtime but end up tossing and turning for half of that. Furthermore, exploring the truth behind a few myths like adapting to low hours of sleep, napping and too much sleep.
Many of us believe that REM sleep is the deciding factor of a good nights rest or blacking out to wake up to a morning alarm. Yet this is not true and quality according to science has a few criteria. How many times you wake up in the night, the time it takes to fall asleep in addition to the duration of sleep time in bed versus awake. Before there is any confusion, the last notion means when you are trying to go to sleep rather than total time in bed throughout the day or night.
In terms of waking up anything more than once a night drops sleep quality, which all of us probably instantly understand. Falling asleep in under 30 minutes in bed counts as the beginning of an optimal sleep cycle, yet I believe it takes about an hour since in the first 30 minutes most people are winding down by meditating, getting in the right positioning or putting devices on the nightstand next to the bed etc.
Moreover, 85% of the time in bed should be sleep time rather than being awake, which sounds reasonable Even though many of us probably spend less than that asleep if there is any residual energy left over before getting into bed.
That said, a few quality tips for getting better quality sleep include daily exercising or hitting 10k steps. A notion that should be easy to achieve even during current lockdown situations around the world. 10k steps could come from walking around the house a few times, going in the yard for those who have one or walking, running or cycling on at-home exercise machines.
Another tip is to limit late-night alcohol consumptions, which is the opposite for some people as this knocks them out. Yet, using this as a tool to initiate sleep will lead to poor quality sleep and a terrible wake-up experience or decent quality sleep with a rough morning environment. Hence avoiding late-night drinking is the best course of action or stop drinking a few hours before bedtime to try to sober up a little.
Proper scheduling and a sleep-friendly bedroom environment are two more ways to enhance sleep. Scheduling a bedtime seems like a notion only suitable for kids. However, as an adult, it works wonders for circadian rhythm or the sleep-wake cycle. Studies show that people who do this wake up more energized in addition to being more productive throughout the day.
As for a sleep-friendly environment, studies suggest removing all distractions from the bedroom such as TV’s, Smartphones, night lights and even open curtains. Furthermore, keeping the room relatively cold aids in initiating sleep as it lowers core body temp, as this occurs the brain signals it is time for bed.
Some other recommendations are to use the bedroom for sleep or intimate activities only. Thus it should be an electronic-free zone, no scrolling social media, working on the computer or playing games on TV.
That said, I think that having a TV with a self timer is helpful for some people or a white noise machine. I say this as someone who sleeps much better with a little noise rather than complete silence after weeks and months of trying both.
All of this aside it’s necessary to touch on a few common sleep myths. The first being that people can force the body to adapt to function properly on less than 7 hours of sleep. Every study that I have read thus far say that this notion is false. Anyone who claims to be successfully doing this is adapting to survive on the negative effects of sleep. Furthermore, most likely relies on some form of stimulant in the morning to get them going or throughout their day. Yet, there is a rare genetic disease that allows people to function on low hours of sleep, but this is not something anyone can train to do.
Another interesting myth is napping throughout the day are better for health and keeping the body alert. A 20-minute power nap is ideal and does not disrupt nightly sleep patterns. However, anything more than this can lead to tiredness after as well as disrupting the circadian rhythm. Disruption not only messes with sleep but also eating and normal body functions.
The last one is that one can’t have too much sleep since its when the body heals and restores itself. Going way over the scientific recommendations yields some negative outcomes. Similar to a lack of sleep, too much can lead to approximately 30% chance of obesity development.
That said, I hope that from this post you try one or all of the tips. For those who believe any of the myths to be true do a little more research, I promise you’ll see the light.