How much I slept or how little I slept is quite often a very annoying and sometimes fascinating thought that comes to the mind. It becomes so very annoying not being able to concoct the correct sleep routine or somehow squeeze it in our schedule. Many times, a nap of 30 minutes is more than enough to keep us going for hours at a stretch. On the other hand, there are times when a sleep of even 10 hours is not sufficient for us to push our limits beyond just opening our eyes.
Now it so happens that every age group has a certain sleep requirement. But on an average, a 7-9 hour sleep is all that you need. However there is a certain very slim percentage of our population – just a 1-3% of the lot, that needs fewer than 6 hours of sleep a day and yet their body functions normally – super-sleepers as we call them.
It is quite obvious that your sleep controls your health, psychical and physical fitness. But at the same time, an equally true fact is that a tight schedule might not allow you to get optimum sleep many times. What is it that you do then? You cannot just state your ‘sleep requirement’ as an excuse for all your work. So here are a few ways you can sleep smarter and double the efficiency of whatever little sleep you can sneak during those terribly packed tight schedules.
Quality: It is the quality of sleep that you get which determines your mood or productivity afterward. By quality, it does not mean that an uninterrupted sleep is a good one. Our brain has an amazing capability of working continuously even when we are asleep. The disturbances it perceives during those hours such as traffic noises or the chirping birds or increased lights in the room reduce the duration of deep sleep or REM thereby increasing your shallow sleep hours. At ground level, it just means that even though you do not get up, you are not getting the much needed deep sleep. This makes it annoying that even after sleeping for those hours, you wake up all messed up feeling sleep deprived yet again. So the key here is that regulate your sleep timings in accordance with your environment, ensuring minimum disturbance when asleep. This would ensure quality sleep for you to get a kick start when you get up.
Coffee naps: Studies show that a cup of coffee coupled with a 20-minute nap gives excellent results when it comes to cognitive ability. The 20-minute-nap gives your body enough time to send the caffeine into the bloodstream and when you wake up, you feel absolutely fresh to complete any mind challenging tasks that need to be done. This, however, does not change the fact that intake of caffeine before your night sleep results in poor cognitive for it shortens the deep-sleep-phases 3 and 4. But when it comes to power naps, coffee is a help. In this regard, alcohol makes you fall asleep faster but it reduces REM sleep but increases slow wave sleep. As a result, you sleep faster, but no matter how much you sleep, you would always feel it was inadequate.
Your feet! : Did you know that your feet can actually control quality sleep? It so happens that our feet controls body temperature and we sleep only when our body temperature lowers. This explains most of our habits that we sleep with our feet outside the blanket so as to allow our body temperature to lower to an optimum. As a result, relaxing your feet by washing them with cold water helps you fall asleep faster.
Routine: Your biological clock and sleep-wake-homeostat if maintained can lead to a healthier mind and a fitter body. The body thinks for itself and once it notices irregularities in sleep patterns, it tries adjusting accordingly and this takes a toll on your health. Try maintaining a daily routine so that your body knows when it would get rest so that it focuses on what you are doing instead of looking out for opportunities to get some sleep wherever and whenever.
Your sleep cycle: It consists of basically 4 phases plus REM i.e. rapid eye movement phase – precisely, the phase when you dream. With every sleep phase, you fall into deeper sleep and the same 4+1 phases cycles go all night long spend mo. Lastly, with every cycle, you spend more and more time in the deep sleep phase.For this sleep cycle reason, power naps should not be longer than 30 minutes otherwise you enter phase two of your sleep which is, in fact, deeper and would make it difficult for you to get up feeling refreshed. Any longer than that moves forward your sleep inertia which when deprived of makes you feel dissatisfied. Longer than 30 minutes makes you enter slow wave sleep which is likely to hamper your night sleep.
Having said that, you should also know that inadequate sleep can cause serious illness, ones which when catch up with you once, promise to stay forever. Sleep deprivation causes hypertension, diabetes, heart ailments, digestion disorders, depression, and obesity. Also, it affects the psychical domain that includes reduced attentiveness, reduced memory retention, slowed down reaction times and even the physical functions your brain controls. By depriving yourself of enough sleep, you are actually snatching away the time that your brain always took to consolidate the information it always gained during the day. The result is obvious – reduced memory. This accounts for your inability to use already acquired information in decision making and innovative thinking. Also, study shows that increased sleep helps in physical well being especially if it comes to sports and games. It increases stamina and accuracy of the sportsperson. So a piece of advice would be, that make no compromises with your sleep but try sleeping smarter balance your work and health.