Ready To Make Sleep A Priority?
Your 20s can be an intense decade. Making sure you get an optimum amount of sleep to power you through each and every day should be at the top of every 20-something’s priority list.
Sleep fuels us in so many ways. In fact a serious lack of sleep has been linked to depression in numerous scientific studies. It has also been linked to optimising the consolidation of newly acquired information in memory. And those bits of sleep-related research are just a small sample of the positive and negative side effects varied amounts of sleep can have on the brain and body.
As you’re probably aware, the latest sleeping trends and top sleeping tips hit the media thick and fast, on what seems like a daily basis – whether it’s sleeping with socks on, orgasming twice before bedtime or sleeping in an altitude tent. Some are good and some are just pretty far-fetched.
We’ve saved you some time and sieved through these theories and picked out a ‘doable’ science-backed sleeping tip tried and tested by athletes, which could potentially optimise your sleeping patterns and in turn, boost your brain’s functioning power.
(Remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to sleep. So make ‘trial and error’ your new best friend. And have fun with it!)
The 90-Minute Sleep Cycle
Although pitched as a new finding, the idea of a 90-minute sleep cycle has been around since (and probably before) 1968.
What is the 90-minute sleep cycle?
The aim of the 90-minute sleep cycle is to wake up (at the same time each morning) having had numerous 90-minute cycles to ensure quality deep sleep and REM has been achieved during the night. The positive effects can include the brain producing delta waves and our bodies repairing and restoring themselves, plus other hormonal benefits.
It’s described by Ernest Hartmann, MD as a basic biological 90-minute cycle of a typical night’s sleep and is “defined by electroencephalogram and eye movement criteria.”
By studying the usual parameters of sleep, which include the amount of sleep, the amount of rapid eye movement (REM), “dream time” and the number of awakenings, Hartmann was able to identify a D-period (dreaming time) occurring every 90 minutes throughout the night. And this D-period became very significant inDeed.
Elite sports coach and author of “Sleep” Nick Littlehales says, “ninety minutes is the length of time it takes a person under clinical conditions to go through the stages of sleep that constitute a cycle.” These stages include dozing off, light sleep, deep sleep and REM. REM is described by Hobson in the International Journal of Science as, “a physiological brain state that produces a distinctive and psychosis-like mental content” or dreaming. Littlehales likens the start of the 90 minutes as being at the top of a staircase and dozing off and the end of the cycle as being at the bottom of the staircase and hitting deep sleep.
A few quick questions answered:
Q. Do we wake after each 90-minute cycle?
A. Yes we do for a moment, although you won’t remember it.
Q. How crucial is it to wake up at the same time each morning?
A. It’s vital. If you can’t fit your 90-minute cycles in, then you’ll need to adjust your bedtime to 90 minutes later, so you can wake up at the same time having completed your cycles.
Q. What happens if I wake before the cycle is up?
A. You’re more likely to feel groggy when you wake or at some point during the day.
Q. Is each cycle the same throughout one night’s sleep?
A. No, each varies. Some may be more intense, others lighter. Deep sleep is prioritised in the first few cycles. Littlehales describes the cycle’s processes as, “gradually getting less deep sleep and more REM sleep as the night progresses.”
How can you introduce these 90-minute sleep cycles into your life?
- Work out the earliest time during the week (and month) you need to wake up. And allow yourself 90 minutes before work to adjust to the day. If you have a hockey match at 8am on Saturday morning, (that’s dedication right there) you’ll need to be up at 6.30am to allow yourself 90 minutes to ‘recover’ from sleep.
Whichever waking time you choose, you’ll need to stick to this each and every day. Keeping your wake up time consistent is crucial! Go to bed 90 minutes later rather than get up 90 minutes earlier.
- Once you’ve picked your wake up time, say it’s 6.30am, you can now work backwards in 90-minute chunks to decide which time/s you’ll get to bed. You don’t have to be as strict with bedtime as you do with your waking up time. If you go to a pub quiz every Thursday and get back late then just re-adjust your 90-minute calculation so you wake up at the same time. Here are a few 90-minute timing cycles you can follow:
Bedtime: 9.15pm. Wake: 6.15am. 6 X 90-minute cycles.
Bedtime: 10pm. Wake: 7am. 6 X 90-minute cycles.
Bedtime: 10.30pm. Wake: 6.00am. 5 X 90-minute cycles.
Bedtime: Midnight. Wake: 6am. 4 X 90-minute cycles.
Bedtime: Midnight. Wake: 7.30am. 5 X 90-minute cycles.
If you miss your bedtime by 15 minutes, remember not to shift your wake up time to 15 minutes later. Instead go to bed 90 minutes later and sacrifice a cycle instead.
Whilst trying out this new way of sleeping, be sure to download our incredibly handy sleep app Peak Sleep – Sleep Better. It’s designed to give you a better night’s sleep by creating a personalised bedtime routine using scientifically-backed techniques. So you can integrate these techniques before you settle into your cycles. Download the app below:
Whilst mastering the art of sleeping in cycles, be sure to also test your sleeping position. There are lots of differing opinions on the best position to sleep in, so try them out and see how they impact the quality of your sleep. University of Rochester’s Medical Health Encyclopedia offers the following science-backed advice on sleeping posture, which may be a good place to start:
“If you sleep on your back, a small pillow under the back of your knees will reduce stress on your spine and support the natural curve in your lower back. The pillow for your head should support your head, the natural curve of your neck and your shoulders.”
As mentioned at the start of this article, different sleeping techniques and positions work for different people. Be sure to allow a long enough trial time frame, to give each sleeping method a chance to kick in and make a potential difference to your body and brain.
Have fun sleep-hacking.
See how sex can alter your brain in our series of sex and the brain articles: