Sleep is the most crucial act we do on a daily basis. But do we really need eight hours and is that even optimal? This has been on my mind ever since I started to wake up at five in the morning. I realized I was only getting between six and seven hours of sleep and some days I felt better than when I would get eight full hours. So I started to look into the science of sleep and now am not so sure eight hours each night is optimal.
The biggest problem with the eight hours a night meme is that it sets us up for failure. The length of one sleep cycle is an hour and a half meaning that waking up in those intervals makes waking up easier. Not a morning person? It is because you are waking up in the middle of a cycle. By doing so, this leaves your feeling tired and gives us hate for waking up.
Simply tweaking bedtime so that waking up allows you to hit the end of a sleep cycle is the best way to wake up alert and ready to seize the day. (Or at least just not hate mornings.) The best way to do this is to count backward; say you want to wake up at six in the morning tomorrow since sleep cycles are an hour and a half long the first bedtime is four thirty in the morning.
If you want you can take an hour and a half nap every so often but most people want to be asleep longer making four thirty is a bit too late to start. The next cycle is three in the morning giving us three hours of sleep better but not great if you plan to be awake all day. Then comes one thirty setting us up for four and a half hours of sleep followed by six hours of sleep starting at twelve midnight.
Now we can extrapolate and see that eight hours is not optimal, if we want more than six hours of sleep then we need to choose between seven and a half hours of sleep or nine. Either one works great to allow for a more alert morning because we are now working with our natural cycles.
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