How much sleep should I really be getting? How much sleep do men need? How much sleep do women need? Do naps count as sleep time? What about disco napping, does it really work? How to nap during the day and not feel groggy? Yes, it's true you are probably sleep deficient.
Get Enough Sleep. We hear it all the time. Many of us make excuses and because the goals and benefits are not clearly defined.
Sleep science is making great strides in the most recent couple of year as "wearables" provide increasingly better data on what actually happens to us as we sleep, i,e. I sleep great vs. Actually, I toss and turn or shift positioning quite often throughout the night but do not really notice it since I am not fully conscious, and thus do not remember it.
Great sleep keeps us healthy mentally, physically and emotionally so understanding your requirements is the first step toward optimizing it. Men and women both need the same amount of sleep but there is some evidence that we need less sleep as we continue to age. Possibly due to the accumulation of habits.
Many biohacking experts who love data, including myself, have reported that 9 hours of sleep makes them feel all but bulletproof. But to get 9 hrs you have to commit to going to bed earlier than you probably naturally are accustomed to. My schedule used to look like this: In bed by 11PM during the week, wake up at 630AM. This did not really cut it for peak brain performance (think focus and mood) which, more than anything is what drives the rest of behavior since we make better choices and continue with better habits whenever our minds are sharp and clear, which unfortunately nootropics alone cannot provide.
The 5 phases of sleep: The problem with the 11PM to 630AM schedule is that it takes most people between 5 - 30 minutes to fall sound asleep. Which means if you are in bed for 7.5 hrs (11-630) then you really only slept for 7 hours if you're lucky.
1 sleep cycle is 90 minutes or 1.5 hours long, and during 1 sleep cycle, during which we move through all 5 phases of sleep,
Why does that matter so much?
Mood, creativity, focus, stress tolerance and even strength and speed of reflexes all get a boost when you get this right.
For instance, when you get 7 hours instead of 7.5 hours of actually sleep you miss out on completing a full sleep cycle. Let's look at a nap example to understand:
Nap Example: To take a proper "disco nap" you need to sleep for either 1.5 hrs or almost exactly 3 hours for this reason, anything else will leave you in less than optimal state.
Instead, we want to aim for complete sleep cycles to wake up as refreshed as possible and to avoid waking during the middle of a sleep cycle which typically feels somewhere between disappointing and horrible.
So what's the best approach: If you can only be in bed for 7 hours, relax for 30 minutes before bed without any cell phone or laptop or TV screens (Reading a bit of fiction, say 5-15 minutes works wonders here) and then set your alarm for 6.5 hours from now to ensure you get a crisp, minimum 6 hours which equals 4 complete sleep cycles of 1.5 hours / 90 mins each.
Alternative Options: a) Set the alarm for 8 hours to ensure you get 7.5 hours of sleep or 5 sleep cycles. b) Set the alarm for 9.5 hours to ensure you get 9 hours or 6 complete cycles
Napping to bolster nightly sleep: Recent studies have shown that for every 7 days we want to get 30 -35 sleep cycles, but this doesn't have to come solely from nighttime sleep. Napping can be your best friend here.
To save you the math, at a bare minimum what this looks like is 6 full hours of sleep per night plus a 30 minute nap 4-7 times per week. Give it a shot and see how refreshed you feel.
Sleep. There is no substitute. At least currently. As we continue to grow in our respect of timed daily napping, look for sleep centers that provide napping comfortable spaces during your lunch break to pop up more and more. That said, a timed 20-30 minute nap can be your best friend, not a weakness. It is only a matter of building the habit, within 1 week you can begin to train yourself to fail asleep within 5-10 minutes, get 20 minutes of functional rest and wake up feeling like you just restarted your day at 9am and can now handle your tasks with much more ease and confidence. It's no secret that top companies encourage this intelligent practice for a reason, productivity and mood go way up.
Nutritionist, Napping Aficionado, and Founder of Upgraded Formulas