The average human being ends up sleeping for approximately 2/3’s of their life, but according to a recent US study approximately 70% are not getting enough sleep. We all know the waffle the media propagates about how adults (18-50 years) need around 7-9 hours sleep each night – but why do we actually need that much and is it possible I need less?
Some actually do need less sleep, and if you’re one of those fortunate bastards, I hope you’re putting that extra “up” time to good use and advancing the modern world somehow by inventing useful things like; glow-in-the-dark booby tassels or biltong flavoured beer.
So how much sleep do I need?
How long is a piece of string? “Half as long as twice the length” I here you say. No seriously, there is actually a technique to discovering how much sleep you do need, and although it takes a bit of discipline it’s going to give you a good indication as to whether you’re in a sleep deficit or abundance.
Here’s how to find out:
1. Lay off the caffeine, stimulants and big meals after 6pm for a week. (they affect your sleeping patterns and sleep quality)
2. Sunday Evening: Choose a time to go to bed that will allow you between 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. (i.e. 10pm-6am = 8 hours)
3. Religiously keep to this time throughout the next seven nights with an alarm clock, but adjusting the time (more or less) based on how you feel in the morning, i.e. sleepy means go to bed 30mins earlier, dozy means (too much sleep) so give yourself an extra half hour. Keep doing this until you wake up in the morning feeling as spritely as an oompa-loompa on a sugar high.
4. The following Saturday night turn your alarm off, go to sleep at your designated peak time and make a note of what time you wake on Sunday morning. This will be the amount of sleep you need to function at your optimum, and not have you looking like a weathered heroin addict with black rings below your eyes that would put Fester Adams to shame.
Tips to Sleeping Better
People who are experts in how to sleep better and look your best suggest that developing a routine is a good way to fall asleep. Your body and brain have amazing coping mechanisms that allow them to recognize a daily routine and adjust themselves accordingly. So, if you eat at the same time, exercise at the same time and go to bed at the same time, chances are falling asleep will come easier, giving you the rest you need to look your absolute best.
I used to have it quite bad when it came to falling asleep, because the second my weary head hit the pillow my mind would say “right gentlemen, all hands on deck it’s go-go-go!” and I began thinking about anything and everything – which meant I only got to sleep around 2am. Not nice. I’ve managed to turn this around and am able to instantly fall asleep by following some sage advice from those pencil pushing men who call themselves sleep experts. Here are some tips to getting a good nights sleep:
- Discipline – keep to the same bedtime every night, if you aim to be in bed by 10pm make arrangements for this to happen. Then reward yourself in the morning with a nice breakfast and acknowledge how good feel after having had the right amount of sleep. If you feel tired in the evening, hit the hay, don’t stay up watching TV or fannying about (even if it’s 8pm). You’ll be thankful in the morning.
- Routine – doing the same string of tasks each night before bed is essential to getting your mind and body into that sleep mode. For me it goes: Wash up (face/teeth), burn incense, put on classical music, light yoga, write in journal, then read for 20mins. (light reading is suggested however I don’t do fiction so this for me is a good time to catch up on personal development and business books)
- Excercise – working up a sweat is one of the best tips to ensure your body is physically tired at the end of each day. Even a quick jog, brisk walk, cycling or 20 minutes of passion (ideally before bed) with the Missus is going to a) release the right chemicals responsible for winding you down at the end of the day and b) you will be physically tired and wanting your bed.
- Alcohol and Stimulants – excessive caffeine (and other such stimulants) not only adversely affect the functioning of your heart but remain in your system for hours after consumption- preventing you from nodding off when you need. Caffeine’s stimulant effects peak in about one hour and then declines as the liver breaks it down. Other stimulants include coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, pre-workout drinks, supplements, weight loss pills and booze and cigarettes.
- The Bedroom – ensure the bedroom is made (and conducive) for sleeping, watching TV in bed should not be part of the bedtime routine as is takes time away from letting your brain get into sleep mode. Sex before sleep is a great way to get a light workout and produce doo-doo chemicals. Also take out any distractions, and ensure you your bedroom is dark, cool in temperature, and comfy.
- Notebook – keep a notebook by your bedside so that any thoughts that crop up can be written down, noted and dealt with in the morning. It’s a great way to get everything off your chest and ensures you’re not worrying or constantly thinking about any one thing.
The Price of Sleep Deprivation
- Sleep deprivation can be dangerous.
- Having too much sleep can be as dangerous as sleep deprivation.
- Sleep deprivation magnifies alcohol’s effects on the body, so a fatigued person who then consumes alcohol will become even more impaired.
- Driver fatigue, like alcohol consumption, is responsible for many vehicle accidents.
- Do not watch TV when you’re trying to fall asleep. This will stimulate your brain and only make it harder to drift off.
- Do not stop prescribed medications abruptly without speaking with your doctor. Some medications can have adverse effects when stopped too abruptly.
Good quality sleep will not only have you waking up refreshed, being more productive, but will also ensure you’re looking your best. So to feel good and look good, get your 40 winks!