No ‘one size fits all’ for sleep duration. Sleep is highly individual, but healthy adults range from 6-9 hours per night.
We can’t make ourselves fall asleep, but we can make sleep more likely by being sleepy and calm before we want to fall asleep. Having a regular bed time and wake up time will help sleep onset and make sure sleep is maintained throughout the night. To get 7-8 hours sleep per night aim to spend 8-9 hours in bed. You can try setting a wake up time by working backwards in 90
minute cycles to get the right bed time.
Our sleep is not made up of one phase, it is made up of different stages of varying depth. One round of these stages us called a ‘sleep cycle’.
A sleep cycle typically lasts 90 minuets and depending how long you sleep for, you will move through multiple sleep cycles each night.
One sleep cycle is made up of four stages which step down from light to deep sleep and then back up again. It is much more difficult to be woken up from a stage of deep sleep.
How does sleep work?
An internal biochemical system in the brain that controls the drive to sleep. The longer you stay awake for the greater the drive to sleep becomes. Long day time naps can lead to a reduced sleep drive at night.
The timing of sleep across a day. Light dictates the time of our body clock in our brain. This is why you generally feel alert in the day time and sleepy at night. That’s why it tends to be difficult to sleep in the day time. (Who even has time to sleep during the day?!)
The psychological processes or ‘setting conditions’ the lead to falling asleep. Generally, cognitive arousal reduces in the lead up to bed time. It is difficult to fall asleep with a ‘racing mind’.
Strategies that will help your sleep
- By minimising light exposure 30 minuets before bed this allows the hormone melatonin to peak causing the feelings of sleepiness. - Having a glass of warm milk before bed will help sleep onset, muscle growth and muscle repair during sleep. Milk is high in a slow releasing protein and the warmth from the milk will enhance feelings of sleepiness. - During the night the body’s core temperature drops to it’s lowest and therefore a thermo-neutral environment is important to ensure sleep is maintained. Warming the skin will help the body’s temperature drop to what is needed for sleep. Having a warm bath/shower or wearing warm clothing can help this process. - Exposure to bright light from electronics such as TV and phone is sufficient to suppress melatonin and delay sleep onset. Scrolling through social media 30 minuets before sleep can lead to cognitive arousal delaying sleep onset. Try to avoid this and allocate a time outside of this window to ensure all social activities are satisfied.