Sleep is something that everyone experiences differently. Even couples who spend every waking minute together sleep in different ways.
One may prefer a soft mattress while the other prefers firm, hence the Sleep Number craze. Or one may sleep propped up on many pillows while their partner prefers to sprawl on their stomach with no pillow at all.
But our sleep differences aren't just physical, they’re also experiential.
You've probably noticed how some people can spring out of bed in the morning whistling and making breakfast as soon as their feet touch the floor, also known as the dreaded morning person. And others aren't fully awake until the second cup of coffee. If the title of this article caught your eye, chances are that you're one of the latter.
Do you wake up feeling like sleep is a 90-pound cat lying on your head? Do you reach for the snooze button two or three times before you're finally ready to drag yourself into a hot shower? If so, the problem might not be you, but rather how you're dealing with your own REM cycles and circadian rhythm.
Understanding Your Sleep Cycles
There are two important cycles that affect how we sleep, and more importantly, how we wake up. The first is your circadian rhythm that loops every 24 hours. It's how your body predicts and prepares for each phase of your day. You may notice that you tend to get hungry, sleepy, or start looking forward to the end of work at about the same time every day. This is your circadian rhythm.
The other cycle is your REM cycle, something that repeats about every 10 to 40 minutes while you sleep. In the deepest phase, your body almost completely shuts down and waking up is incredibly difficult, even if someone is shaking you. You stay in this phase for longer and longer periods as you sleep, usually between 5 and 20 minutes. As you come out of the deep REM cycle, you dream.
What does this mean for waking up energized? There is a special phase essentially between REM cycles where you are closest to being awake and yet still wake up on time without that groggy feeling of trying to boot your brain up from a deeper part of the cycle. Reaching for that snooze button is actually your body’s unconscious way of trying to push your sleep cycle just a little bit closer to its natural rhythm of waking up before actually rising.
Transforming Yourself Into a Morning Person
If you're tired of waking up groggy and slow, you don't have to be a sleep scientist to start transforming yourself from a coffee person into a morning person. The key is to teach your body how to sleep, when to wake up, and make sure your sleep environment is conducive to both deep sleep and a good morning. This kind of regime is something anyone can do if you put your mind to it.
What You'll Need:
- Daily Schedule
- Healthy Dinner
- A Bedtime Ritual
- The Right Bed
- Clean Sheets
- A Morning Ritual
Set Your Schedule
Sleep is, by definition, among the least conscious parts of being a human, right along with breathing and thinking weird thoughts when you're bored. This means that talking sense to yourself, or even using bribery (i.e. “Just wake up right now and I'll give you a nice frappuccino later.") doesn't really work.
Instead, you've got to train your circadian rhythm the same way you would a cat or a dog, with a schedule and predictable reinforcements. To master your sleep behaviors, make sure you're going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This will train your body to know when you expect it to sleep and be awake.
Exercise Between Work and Dinner
Have you ever noticed that it's a lot easier to fall asleep when you've done a lot of physical labor? The last time you moved or helped a friend move, hit the gym, cleaned your garage, or performed some other extended sweat-inducing activity, you probably slept like a baby. Do this for yourself every day (or most days) by knowing when and how to work out.
The best time to exercise is right before your biggest and most protein-rich meal of the day, which for most people means between work and dinner. Be sure to do plenty of cardio and don't be afraid to need a shower afterword. The longer your heart pumps and your muscles feel hot, the better.
Eat a Healthy Balanced Dinner
The last thing you want after a good workout and before a good sleep is a big greasy meal. Meals heavy in starch and fat will definitely help you get to sleep, but they also won't do you any favors when it comes to that snooze button in eight hours. Instead, focus on lean meat, rich sauces, and sides of healthy starches like pasta, rice, whole-grain bread, and not-so-buttery potatoes. You can even have a burger if you want. Just cook it with 90/20 ground beef, don't overload on cheese, and replace the fries with a side salad.
Build a Bedtime Ritual
If there are a few things you do before bed, you may have noticed yourself getting sleepy as you do them. This is your circadian rhythm again responding like a dog when their owner grabs the leash. It knows sleep is next and is trying to help you out. Give your body a boost by defining your bedtime ritual and starting at the same time every day to build that absolute schedule. Change into soft pajamas, brush your teeth, watch your final episode of TV, read a chapter from your book, or whatever else you do before bed and tuck yourself in with the lights fully off on time every night.
The Right Bed and Sheets
We should stop and mention before you actually tuck yourself in that, naturally, sleep quality matters. If you can't get truly comfortable, your REM cycle may be irregular as you wake up and need to adjust. Be sure you have a mattress with the right firmness and that hasn’t gotten so old that it's lumpy and uneven. You also want clean pajamas and sheets, washed at least once a week. That ensures the fabric against your skin for night sweat absorption is always comfortable. This will let you sleep deeply when you need to and wake up on time and happy.
Finish With a Morning Ritual
Finally, make sure to set your alarm for the same time every day and—this part is important—actually get up when your alarm goes off. If you feel groggy those first few days, remember that you're training your sleepy animal self and that training takes a while. The key after you rise is to put together a solid morning ritual of wakefulness and work preparation. Brush your hair and teeth, let the hot shower water warm up and enliven your body (we physically associate heat with activity), and do a few chores or exercises to get active. If you do the same things before work every day, your body will learn that it's time to wake up, gear up, and get going.
The best part? When your circadian rhythm finally learns what you want, it will actually manage your REM cycle distribution so that you'll be finishing a REM and ready to wake about a minute before your alarm goes off. No more snooze button and no more deathly grogginess as you enter the realm of energetic morning people.
Nest Bedding Can Help You Wake Up On Time
With the right approach to a good night's sleep, you may or may not be able to turn yourself into a whistling mutant of morning cheer, but you can definitely teach your body to wake up on time and get energized much more reliably than you have in the past. When you start waking up just before your alarm ready to face the day, you know you'll have won. For more great tips and tricks on sleeping well and waking up energized, contact us today!