We’re constantly being lectured on the importance of sleep and the benefits of getting a full eight hours. But no matter how long we spend asleep, how many sleep-friendly foods we consume and how long we spend tech-free before bed, some mornings we wake up and still feel groggy as hell.
One way of combatting this is by paying more attention to our sleep cycles and not just how many hours we’re getting. According to the Sleep Council, the proportion of us who “sleep very well most nights” fell from 25% in 2013 to 17% in 2017, reported The Telegraph.
And other recent research also suggests we should be thinking more about the precise times at which we go to bed and set our alarms the next day. “The brain has a pattern of sleep. It’s not like you just fall asleep and hour one is the same as hours two and three and five and nine,” Dr Laura Lefkowitz, an author and sleep expert, told The Telegraph.
Instead, the body goes through cycles and each one contains periods of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. These cycles last for around 90 minutes each and we usually have five or six a night.
Waking up in the middle of a cycle can leave us feeling like rubbish the next day, while we’re more likely to feel well-rested and cheery if we wake up between phases.
So, how can we apply these findings to our own sleep habits? Thankfully, with the help of a new online tool, it’s actually pretty straightforward. The Sleep Calculator, created by web-blinds.com, allows you to input the time you need to wake up and offers a list of optimal bedtimes.
If you need to be up for work at 7:30 am, for instance, you’d be wisest to go to bed at either 10:16 pm, 11:46 pm, 1:16 am or 2:46 am. But if it’s the weekend and you’re lying in until 10:30 am (bliss!), you should set your alarm for 1:16 am, 2:46 am, 4:16 am or 5:46 am.
Apple’s Bedtime feature, available on iOS 10, also utilises this science and wakes you up when you’re less likely to feel groggy. This all goes to show that quality counts just as much as quantity when it comes to sleep.