Did you know that there are different stages and cycles of sleep? There are four stages of sleep. Stage 1, stage 2, stage 3 and REM or rapid eye movement. Stage 1 and 2 can be called light sleep stages. Stage 3 and REM are deep sleep stages.
You are more likely to wake up during a light sleep stage. But if you wake up in a deep sleep stage you will feel groggy and tired.
These four stages form one sleep cycle. Like this, we go through multiple sleep cycles every night. One sleep cycle typically lasts for 90 minutes. So the old belief of 8 hours of sleep per night is actually wrong. As you would end up waking in a deep sleep stage.
Have you ever had a nice long sleep of 9 or 10 hours only to wake up feeling tired and groggy? What happened?
The problem is that we have been brought up to think of sleep in quantitative terms. I sleep 5 hours, I sleep 8 hours, I sleep 12 hours. Quantity is just easy to measure so it became the default. But it is not the ideal way to measure your sleep.
When we only think quantity we only focus on increasing the time spent in bed. However, with today’s busy lives we don’t have that extra hour to spend sleeping. So we need to improve our sleep efficiency.
Significantly, we need different quantities of sleep at different ages. Notice how teens sleep for long periods of time. It’s what their bodies need. As we age we tend to sleep lesser and less.
The quantity of sleep is also dependent on the season. In the winters we tend to sleep for a longer duration than in the summers.
So the overall quantity of sleep is not a reliable measure.
I like to focus on sleep quality. Measure how much deep sleep vs. light sleep. Measure how long each sleep cycle was. Measure when in the night did I get the most deep sleep.
Today, measuring sleep is becoming easier and easier. Earlier we had to be wired up with electrodes and made to sleep in a special room at a hospital to measure our sleep data. Wearing the electrodes itself must cause some form of sleep disruption. Let alone sleeping in a new environment.
Nowadays we have a host of sleep trackers. Here is a list of my top trackers.
- Mi Band: I use this everyday and so do all my coaching clients. It has a good sleep prediction algorithm. It’s simple to understand and easy to use. Divides sleep into deep and light sleep. Best value for money.
- FitBit: This gives a little more data than a Mi Band, the algorithms are different so you cannot compare the data. The FitBit is also much more expensive than the Mi Band.
- Apps on your phone: I have used an App Called Sleep As Android. It is fairly accurate. Give a lot of data. Remember to keep your phone in Airplane mode if you sleep with it next to you.
I strongly suggest investing in some form of sleep tracker.
If technology is not your thing. Then a simple notebook by your bedside to write down, how long you have slept for and how you feel after waking up.
Follow this and you will see trends emerging. Giving you greater insight into your life and your sleep. My friends and I often complete on who had more deep sleep using the data from our sleep trackers! Anything more than 40% deep sleep is brilliant!
So your simple habit is to wake up and write down how you feel and how much you slept. Or check your sleep tracker for more information. Keep doing this for a month and you will be surprised by the results. E.g. how just one glass of alcohol dramatically decreases deep sleep cycles.