We look at the clock and then do the quick math: If I fall asleep now – right now – I’ll get 4 hours and 36 minutes of sleep … I’ll get 3 hours and 51 minutes … I’ll get …
The obsession over sleep comes from the modern world’s inability to cue our bodies and minds for rest. Most households have at least one television on at all times, add-in the glowing and buzzing rectangles of our cell phones, computers and iPads and we are on sensory overload.
The main problem is that each of these devices emit a blue light which tells out body that it is still daytime and that slows the production of melatonin, the naturally occurring hormone generated to help sustain our circadian rhythm and create and maintain sleep.
1. The one-hour cutoff. Give yourself one hour before bedtime without the use of any electronic devices. Reading puts us to sleep because it makes our brain work while we are creating the hormones necessary for sleep (a Kindle will work here).
The worst thing you can do is bring a computer or iPad into bed with you, which tells your body that the bed has little connection with healthy sleep. If you need a distraction from your thoughts, then look into listening to an hour of NPR podcasts from your iPod – nothing puts us to sleep quicker than Ira Glass!
2. Waking up is okay. The conventional wisdom is that 8-hours of slumber constitutes a sleep cycle, How crazy is that? We need to sleep for exactly 1/3 of our life to create the perfect day.
The truth is that humans have always survived on biphasic sleep pattern – two distinct sleeping times: night sleep and morning sleep. Night sleep meant we could enjoy a deep REM sleep, then awake to get some water, use the facilities and even enjoy the clarity of the 4 AM hour.
Then we head back to bed for a morning sleep which is a less-intense REM cycle leaving us with about 7 – 8 hours of total time spent in and around our bed. However, that’s been construed to make us believe that we should be conked out for 8 straight hours, hence the obsession with Ambien and other sleep medications.
Waking up in the middle of the night is not a problem – it’s completely natural.
3. Desperate times call for Melatonin. We can use a nudge every so often. There is a big meeting and we’ve been stressed and the kids are screaming.
Whatever the issue, we could use some NATURAL help a few times a month. Melatonin is a hormone created naturally in the body, but you can also buy it in the vitamin sections of the health food store. Melatonin gets us to sleep faster and puts us into our biphasic sleep cycle.
Modern technology has helped us get to sleep in one important way. Those with a smart phone can download Sleep Cycle and other apps that can gauge the amount of time we are asleep, how deep we sleep and even what the noises are that wake us up in the middle of the night. For those serious about their sleep and wanting quality hours, not just quantity, these technical gadgets could really help.