When it comes to sleep maybe we have it backwards. Instead of focusing on quantity, maybe we should be focusing on quality. Through using sleep optimization techniques you may find that your feeling more rested after 5 hours of quality sleep. Opposed to less rested after 8 hours of sub par sleep.
By implementing a few techniques you may soon find yourself getting better sleep, performing better during the day and enjoying a few more hours not spent in bed. All in all, this sounds like something too good to be true, but it isn’t.
Better Sleep vs More Sleep:
As a mother of two I can tell you first hand that the last three years of my life are a testament to the benefits of quality sleep. Most nights I get into bed around 10:30PM and out of bed (for good) around 7 to 7:30AM. I am typically woken up 3-4 times a night. With many times being abruptly woken during a deep state of sleep. Meaning that even though I may be getting between 7 to 8 hours of sleep, my broken pattern of rest still leaves me feeling foggy and tired most mornings.
However, the nights I do get a chunk of about 5 to 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep are like heaven. I even find myself so refreshed that I can easily get up and start the day, even if it happens to be 5:30AM. My mind and bodies ability to fully function is at a peak and I am ready to go. Not only are my mornings better, but my entire days are much better.
Unfortunately for me, my on and off waking schedule is out of my hands. At least for the time being. However, you may be able to take my experience of quality over quantity and utilize it. By optimizing your own nighttime routine to result in better sleep.
The Science of Sleep Optimization:
Reading my personal experience with quality of sleep vs quantity of sleep may still not have you convinced. Fortunately my own sleeping pattern and results do have sleep studies backing these finds. Most of us typically adhere to the “8 hour” rule of thumb when it comes to recommended sleep. However, each of us operates and functions differently and our optimal sleeping time will vary. Though you never want to get too little or too much sleep, the biggest thing is making sure that the time we do have is optimally used.
Some people will thrive on 4 deep hours of sleep every night. While others find themselves only fully rested after 9 hours. The majority of us will typically find about 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 to be our sweet spot. But this is where we each need to start figuring out what our magic number is. The most surprising thing is that most of us are probably actually sleeping longer than necessary.
This can be problematic because of how our sleep cycle works. If around the 8 hour mark you are in a deep state of REM sleep but your alarm goes off your body isn’t naturally waking. And the result is often a state of fogginess and not feeling rested. By sticking closer to where our body is naturally in a lighter state of sleep will result in a much better time to wake. But just how do we figure this out?
What is Sleep Quantity?
Sleep quantity is exactly what you think it is: how long you sleep, however surprisingly more doesn’t always mean better, and the number of hours is practically meaningless.
The recommended amount of sleep for the average adult is seven to nine hours. On the other hand, if you’re between the ages of 18 and 25 you may only need as little as six hours. Or as much as ten or eleven hours.
In short, sleep time makes zero sense. Every person is different. The quantity of your sleep doesn’t mean you received a restful night’s sleep, it simply means you laid in bed for that long; and you’re still tired, now what?
What is Sleep Quality?
Sleep quality is what everyone strives for. It’s the ideal type of sleep where you don’t wake up throughout the night, you hardly toss and turn, and in the morning you feel re-energized and refreshed. In fact, there is a science to genuine, quality sleep. Quality sleep typically begins by falling asleep within 30 minutes of laying in bed.
Then, hopefully you do not wake up throughout the night, but if you do, let it be no more than once, provided you fall back asleep within 20 minutes. For some, it’s hard to imagine a night like this since quality sleep seems rare. Several people admit having bad quality sleep, which consists of several awakenings, staring at the ceiling, and having difficulty falling back asleep. We’ve all had those nights.
Quality Over Quantity: Why its More Important:
Imagine spending less time laying in bed trying to fall asleep, and more time getting the things you actually need done in a day. Improving the quality of your sleep and not simply the quantity, provides you with more energy during the day, and less time spent accumulating it.
People commonly fear too little sleep, which is why they attempt to get more hours in. But there is equal research that suggests too much sleep is also dangerous. Which is why sleep optimization can be so crucial.
Sleep is all about quality, as concluded in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research. And sleep optimization is the key to improving that quality. Limiting the amount of alcohol you consume at night and exercising more are some common changes, but there are even more ways to increase the quality of your sleep in less time.
A lack of sleep can cause changes in mood, attention, productiveness, and lead to serious consequences in the workplace and even in relationships. If you are truly concerned about your sleep, talking with your doctor is a good place to start.
How to Implement Sleep Optimization:
Sleep optimization is no mystery, and improving the quality of your sleep is less than impossible. There are ways to change and improve your diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices so that you can enjoy the best sleep possible.
This seratonin- producing amino acid, is not only for Thanksgiving. The natural mood stabilizer also helps regulate sleep and can be found in turkey, chicken, fish, nuts, and eggs. Eating these foods before bed can simply trigger better sleep. Allowing you to fall asleep quicker and sleep deeper, longer.
Sound machines, fans, white noise, and ear plugs can dramatically change the quality of your sleep by drowning out any excess noise. There’s a reason sound machines are used on babies, and the gentle, consistent tones can keep you asleep, instead of waking up to every sound throughout the night.
Limit electronics and screen time
Any and all electronics should be turned off at least an hour before bed. Don’t fall asleep with the television on, or while scrolling through Facebook. The artificial light from electronics actually confuses the brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus, which makes it difficult to tell the difference between 8pm and 8am. In addition, artificial blue light sources are damaging for the eyes, so just put your phone away.
Wake up better
Perhaps, like the rest of us, you fear the dreaded alarm. Several sleepers will admit constantly waking throughout the night in panic as they anticipate the sound of their alarm. Typical alarm sounds can be sudden, dramatic, and jolt you out of a deep sleep, thus ruining your sleep patterns. Try a repeated soft noise or even a wake-up light that raises the light level in the room, so that your eyes and your mind slowly adjust to the morning.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes
Although this one should be pretty obvious for obvious reasons, research has shown disadvantages of all three of these products in different ways. Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine affect the sleep cycle in different ways.
Some decreasing stage 1 sleep, others limiting stage 2 and 3 sleep, even though all seem to have positive effects on falling asleep and “relaxing” you. Even if these products seem to take the edge off, in the end, they all result in more choppy, restless, and therefore less quality sleep.
While the main goal is not to completely wear you out, exercising in the morning or afternoon does help you fall asleep faster. On the other hand, don’t exercise right before bed since it has the opposite effect. By allowing your body to use up some of its energy you make room for better rest.
Improve your routine
Routines aren’t just for children and newborns. Whether it’s hunger, needing to use the restroom, or just plain restlessness, all of these factors can cause a less than pleasant night’s sleep. So, get your bedtime snack, use the restroom, and start winding down at least an hour before bedtime every night. Make it a routine so that your mind and body know what to expect, and know when it’s bed time.
Improve your environment
Is your mattress even comfortable? As a good rule of thumb, don’t skimp on anything related to your sleep. If you haven’t already, invest in a good mattress and pillows. This can dramatically improve the way you sleep. In addition, sheets, blankets, and a comforter are well worth your money. Since we spend approximately 1/3 of our time sleeping, you might as well look forward to it by creating a comfortable space. Your environment is a key factor in the quality of your sleep.
Weekdays vs. weekends
Most people have a different schedule on their off- days than they do during the week. Sleeping in can be a common goal for weekenders, but in the long run, this can poorly affect the quality of your sleep.
Waking up at different times during the week throws off your sleep routine/ schedule. Just think of how difficult it can be to wake up on Monday mornings? Aim to wake up within an hour of your usual wake time- that should be plenty enough ‘sleeping in’, and after awhile, you won’t even feel as tired with good, solid, quality sleep.
Ask the experts
In fact, there are people that know your sleep even better than you do. If you have tried several of these tips and are still having difficulty sleeping, consult your doctor and they could refer you to a sleep specialist.
Snoring, restless legs, sore throat, and other symptoms could be related to sleep apnea and other sleep related conditions. If you have any of these conditions, the above tips most likely wont be your only solution, so seek help when it is needed. Your sleep is too important to be skipped.
Time To Get Better Sleep:
There’s a reason sleeping beauty needed all that rest. If you want to be your best self, take care of the way you sleep. Better sleep can make you feel more energized, productive, improve mental health, and even make you happier. Most people believe that when it comes to sleep, more is better, but quantity doesn’t count.
Don’t just lay in bed longer hoping that you’ll fall asleep; improving your routine with sleep optimization. By eating a healthier diet, and fluffing up those pillows those are just a few ways to increase the quality of your sleep. Otherwise, ask the experts. One thing is for certain, don’t waste another night without sleeping like royalty.
Have questions for us about sleep optimization or just sleep in general? We’d be happy to help! Just contact us and we’ll get back to you as quick as we can. Also, make sure to check out some of our other most helpful and popular articles. Including: How To Sleep Better When You’re Sick, Baby Sleep Regression and Our Guide To Fall Asleep Fast.
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