How to Optimize Your Sleep
Sleeping is a non-negotiable part of being human. As much as we’d love to have more hours in the day, we need to respect our body’s need for restoration. Learning how to optimize your sleep can be the key to feeling more energetic, alert, and productive during your waking hours.
Whether you’re looking to stay up later, adjust to a polyphasic sleep schedule, or just get the most out of your shut-eye, these tips can help you optimize your sleep and improve your overall health.
Why is Optimizing Your Sleep Important?
That bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed feeling you get after a good night’s sleep is no coincidence. While the exact reason for sleeping has yet to be determined, the most prominent scientific theories suggest that snoozing hard gives your body the chance to repair necessary cellular components and improve your cognitive function.
Getting enough quality sleep has been linked with reducing stress, improving mood, and lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. Sleep even affects how we interact with others, as poor sleep has been shown to limit our ability to feel empathy and respond to humor.
Optimizing your sleep improves not only the traditional monophasic sleep schedule (which is one long period of sleep during the evening) but also those practicing biphasic (two sleeping periods) and polyphasic (more than two sleeping periods) schedules. Shift workers, new parents, or anyone who wants to try polyphasic sleeping can benefit from tweaking their habits for stronger shut-eye.
What are the Benefits of Optimizing Your Sleep Schedule?
Enhancing your slumber is all about finding a consistent and ideal sleep schedule for you—and ensuring that whatever amount of rest you get is of high quality.
If you do decide to optimize your sleep, get ready to:
- Enjoy a better mood. Research has proven time and time again that a poor night of sleep equals a bad mood the next day. But getting enough quality sleep has been linked with mood improvements and lower stress levels.
- Reduce your risk for disease and illness. When your body is resting, your blood pressure levels naturally dip. This gives your cardiovascular system a break and can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also help strengthen your immune system.
- Notice an improvement in your athletic performance. If you’re trying to go harder in the gym, better sleep will help improve your athletic performance by reducing the risk of injury.
How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Need?
The recommended amount of sleep for healthy adults is between seven and nine hours. Babies and young children need anywhere from 10-17 hours of sleep depending on age, and adults older than 65 only need between seven and eight hours.
However, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone. Some people can’t keep their eyes open with less than eight hours, and others feel jazzed up and ready to go with only six. Ultimately, the best way to optimize your sleep is to experiment until you find the amount and schedule that makes you feel the most energized throughout your day.
Optimizing Your Sleep by Polyphasic Type
Polyphasic sleep patterns are any sleep schedules that involve more than two sleeping sessions in a 24-hour period. This can look like taking several 20-minute naps throughout the day or sleeping for a few hours at night and then again in the morning. This type of schedule isn’t for everyone, though.
While more research is needed to determine how healthy polyphasic sleep is in the long run, some people find that this type of snoozing works well for them. This could be because polyphasic sleep may allow you to bypass lighter sleep stages and get more REM cycles, which are linked with improved memory and increased cognitive function.
Of course, this will only happen if you learn how to optimize your sleep to fall into deep, restful REM cycles quicker.
If your doctor recommends a polyphasic sleep pattern, there are a few different schedules you can follow.
Uberman sleep schedule
The Uberman sleep schedule is a polyphasic sleep pattern that involves taking six 20-minute naps that are evenly spaced out over the day but total two hours of sleep per day. You can optimize this sleep schedule by:
- Scheduling naps at the same time each day.
- Utilizing breathing techniques to fall asleep quicker.
- Getting sunlight or a bright alternative light source (also known as light therapy) after waking.
Everyman sleep schedule
The Everyman sleep schedule is a polyphasic sleep pattern where you sleep for three hours a night and take three 20-minute naps at various times during the day. This schedule aims for a total of four hours of sleep each day. You can optimize this sleep schedule by:
- Using artificial light to help keep you awake when it gets dark out.
- Aiming for a regular sleep schedule as much as you can.
- Napping in a dark, quiet room.
Triphasic sleep schedule
The Triphasic sleep schedule is a polyphasic sleep pattern that involves sleeping for three short periods throughout the day instead of the traditional seven to eight hours at night. You can optimize this sleep schedule by:
- Leveraging your circadian rhythm by sleeping after dusk, before dawn, and in the afternoon when energy levels naturally dip.
- Using breathing techniques and light therapy to help you fall asleep.
- Creating a sleep sanctuary that’s quiet, comfy, and dark.
Is Polyphasic Sleep Sustainable Long Term?
More research is needed regarding the long-term effects and sustainability of polyphasic sleep. No evidence has been found (outside of anecdotal reports) to legitimize the benefits polyphasic sleepers claim to experience, such as increased productivity, creativity, and focus.
Additionally, there are several potential downsides to this type of sleep pattern that need to be considered, as many of the schedules only allow for as little as two to four hours of sleep a day. Sleep deprivation is considered anything less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep. Getting one night of poor rest is one thing, but over time sleep deprivation can cause mood swings, microsleeps and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Polyphasic sleep schedules could be sustainable long-term for people who feel energized on fewer hours of sleep or follow a schedule that still allows them to get the recommended amount of rest, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Always check with your doctor before considering a polyphasic sleep schedule for any reason.
How you sleep is just as important as how long you sleep. By following a few key tips, you can optimize your sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and energized.
To optimize your sleep, it’s important to:
- Find the right sleep schedule for you. Make sure you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each day.
- Create a sleep sanctuary. This means finding a dark, quiet, and comfortable place to sleep. Consider using sleep aids like noise machines, blackout curtains, weighted blankets, and eye masks to help you sleep soundly.
- Experiment. Try out different sleep schedules until you find the amount and schedule that makes you feel the most energized throughout your day.
- Get checked. Check in with a doctor if you’re experiencing any adverse health symptoms.
Following these tips will help you optimize your sleep and wake up feeling rested and ready no matter what schedule you follow.
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Advanced Sleeper’s Guide
CES Machines The use of CES (cranial electronic stimulation) machines, and also a tDCS (transcranial DC Stimulation machines) or TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation machines), are a way of more finely controlling the brain wave patterns similar to how the Neuroprogrammer does. With electrical currents, you can replicate a deep sleep-like state. Look for scientific journals […]