The benefits of a full night’s sleep cannot be overstated. When you are lacking in both quality and quantity of sleep, your body and mind are at risk of not functioning to their fullest potential.
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If you find yourself distracted, fatigued, irritable and prone to aches and pains on a regular basis, you may want to look into whether you are going to bed at the appropriate time for your needs. Because the time at which you fall asleep each night sets the tone for how your sleep cycles will commence, establishing a consistent pattern regarding your ideal bedtime can make a significant difference to your well-being. Consider these 10 guidelines when trying to determine just when you should begin your slumber in order to wake up energized and refreshed.
1. Plan To Sleep For At Least 7-1/2 Hours Straight
The goal of sleeping for seven and a half hours per night is a good one to strive for, since this time frame encompasses five full sleep cycles (REM and non-REM sleep) of 90 minutes each, or the average sleep requirement for a typical adult. Some people do best with a bit more sleep, and some do best with a bit less, but start your ideal sleep journey with this target in mind, and adjust accordingly if needed down the road.
2. Aim To Fall Asleep Before Midnight
Assuming that the latest time at which you are able to sleep each morning is between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., you should try your very best to go to sleep before midnight so that you can fully complete the necessary sleep cycles for overall health and productivity. Keep in mind that midnight is the suggested deadline for a typical sleep schedule, and you can vary this by an hour or so each way depending on your individual situation.
3. Experiment With Waking Up Before Your Alarm In The Morning
The vast majority of people rely on a clock or phone alarm in the morning so that they do not oversleep and risk being late to accomplish important tasks. Interestingly, those who have discovered their ideal bedtime and adhere to it consistently wake up in the mornings before their alarms have the chance to sound. Make a chart for each day, and see if you fall into the pattern of beating your alarm by at least 10 minutes each morning; if so, you just might have found your perfect sleep schedule.
4. Set An Alarm At Night To Remind You To Start Winding Down
Once you have a general time frame for falling asleep established, keep yourself accountable in regard to achieving ideal sleep patterns by setting a nightly alarm. This signal serves as an external reminder that you should not stay awake much longer if you wish to maximize your mind’s and body’s functionality for the next day. Calculate how long it takes you to actively get ready for sleep, count back from your standard bedtime, and program your nightly alarm to coordinate with the start of your nightly process.
5. Wait Until After It’s Dark To Go To Bed
Although the goal of going to bed between 8 and 9 p.m. is reasonable for some people, this can become trickier in the summer months when it is still fairly light outside. The natural instinct to stay awake when it’s light and sleep when it’s dark is not easy to counteract, and you may need to actually wait until the sun sets for your ideal bedtime to kick in. Encourage the process by investing in blinds or wall hangings that effectively block the waning rays of outdoor light.
6. Evaluate Your Need To Nap In The Daytime
Do you often find yourself needing to lie down and take a nap in the mid to late afternoon? If so, you could very well not be getting the best quality and quantity of sleep for your body’s needs each night. Take note of the frequency in which you feel a pressing need to nap, and aim to sleep longer at night in an effort to be more alert in the daytime going forward. Remember that napping once in a while is perfectly fine.
7. Try To Wake Up At The Same Time Each Day
For many people who work a traditional weekday schedule, the tendency to rise at the same time of morning on Monday through Friday becomes second nature. However, when the weekend comes around, the temptation to sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday mornings can quite easily throw off your ideal sleep cycle in the evenings, leaving you more fatigued than usual at the start of the work week. Try to wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends, to maintain the appropriate sleep schedule.
8. Pay Attention To Your Body’s Cues
Your body has its own way of letting you know when it’s getting tired, and when you either consciously or unconsciously don’t pay attention to these cues, it’s easy to get off track and stay awake past your ideal bedtime. Avoid the adverse effects of sleep loss by learning to recognize the internal signals that your body sends when it’s time to turn in for the night. Yawning, a feeling of heaviness in your head and eyes, sluggishness and even slight body aches can indicate that sleep is imminent.
9. Keep Your Environment As Consistent As Possible In The Evening
Your mind and body respond well to consistent routines in various aspects of life, and sleep is no exception. Establish some nightly rituals as you are figuring out your appropriate sleep hours, and in time, these practices will organically contribute to your overall process. Try taking a relaxing bath, sipping a cup of hot decaffeinated tea, meditating in low-light conditions, listening to soothing music or reading in your pajamas at roughly the same time each night. An environment that encourages the desire to sleep is highly beneficial.
10. Do Your Best If You Work Non-Traditional Hours
Even though a number of experts in sleep study advocate sleeping overnight due to the natural rhythm of the human body clock, sometimes employment circumstances require people to be at work for the “graveyard shift” and catch up on sleep during the daylight hours. If you fall into this category, you have more of a challenge on your hands regarding ideal sleep patterns, but try to keep to as consistent a schedule as you can. Block sunlight from your room as you sleep to promote high-quality rest.
Ideally, you will want to experiment with finding the perfect bedtime when you have a few days in a row free from work or school. This alleviates any mental pressure that you may put on yourself, worrying about having to fall asleep so that you can be up and out of the house at a certain time. Try to establish your ideal bedtime over a long weekend or during a vacation if possible.