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KEY POINTS:

1. Here are the final 3 keys to Sleeping Soundly.

2. Key 5: Sleep 7-8 hours each night. Even if you can't get 7-8 hours, at least try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. Sleeping on a regular schedule is even more important than the total amount of time you are asleep.

3. Key 6: Nap guilt-free. Naps have been shown to improve energy, productivity, cognitive functioning, and health. However, make sure that you take into account the 90-minute sleep cycle. If you want to have a quick power nap, sleep for 20 minutes. If you want to sleep for longer, make sure you complete the 90-minute cycle. 

4. Key 7: Wake up naturally. Sleep cycles are approximately 90 minutes long. We're naturally designed to wake up during the end of our sleep cycle (during REM sleep). So if you wake up naturally within 45 minutes of your alarm, get out of bed. If you try and go back to sleep, you might fall back into the deeper stages of sleep and feel worse when your alarm goes off.

Last post, we talked about managing caffeine, defending our last hour, dark sleep caves, and sleeping in the cool. Here are the final three keys to sleeping soundly to tap into your full potential.

Key #5: Sleep 7-8 hours each night

Research has shown that for adults, sleeping less than 6 hours per night is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. It takes us 90 minutes to move through a complete sleep cycle. We need at least 5 complete sleep cycles (5 x 90 minutes = 7.5 hours) for optimal sleep.

Also, if you’re sick, if you have done a really hard workout, or if you had a very mentally demanding day, tack on extra sleep to help you to recover and regenerate better! The bottom line? Not sleeping enough can actually decrease our life span! Do your best to get those 7-8 hours per night.

In terms of the timing of your sleep, there is also an increasing body of evidence that suggests that sleeping on a regular schedule is even more important than the total amount of time you are asleep. Studies show that when an athlete’s bedtime is shifted around but the total number of hours they sleep remains the same, there is a measurable decrease in athletic performance. So sticking to a consistent routine is critical.

Check out sleepyti.me. It’s a cool little app that works based on the fact that we sleep in 90 minute increments. So if you know what time you want to wake up, sleepyti.me will calculate when you should go to bed so that you wake up feeling good and refreshed. Check it out at http://sleepyti.me/.

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Key #6: Nap guilt-free

It is fabled that Leonardo da Vinci used to take multiple 20-minute naps throughout the day to charge his creativity. Brainiac Albert Einstein was also a napper. It’s taken hundreds of years, but recent research seems to back up this approach. Naps have been shown to improve energy, productivity, cognitive functioning, and health.

Artists, scientists, and even politicians (Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton) are on to something powerful. Professor Matthew Walker from UC Berkeley has found that a biphasic sleep schedule (sleeping at night and during the day) not only helps with mental recovery and regeneration, but can make you smarter as well!

But there is a catch, and it has to do with those 90-minute sleep cycles we’ve been talking about. In 90 minutes, we generally pass through REM, stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, then back through stage 3, 2, 1 and REM again.

So if you want to have a rejuvenating nap, go for a short 20 minute power nap or less so that you wake up before falling into the deeper levels of sleep. Or alternately, allow yourself the full 90 minutes to complete all the sleep cycles.

Some companies are optimizing happy napping. Nike, Apple, Google, and Deloitte Consulting encourage employees to add a power nap to their daily routines!

Pick from the “nap menu” below when you seek happy napping:

1. The micro-nap (2-5 minutes) - Helps to decrease sleepiness and improves cognitive performance.

2. The mini-nap (10 minutes) - Improves mental and physical performance, decreases fatigue.

3. The power nap (20 minutes) - Improves alertness and energy and has the added bonus of also improving memory.

4. The I-feel-like-hell nap (30 minutes) - Makes you feel groggy and foggy - go back to sleep!

5. The full-cycle nap (90 minutes) - This one includes all the sleep cycles and is like a mini-full night’s sleep. Great for memory and creativity if you have the time. The added bonus here is that there is some growth hormone released, which repairs muscle and bones. So if you had a hard workout in the morning, then this is the nap for you.

Key #7: Wake up naturally

You now know that we naturally cycle through sleep stages during the night. We have five sleep stages (REM and sleep stages 1-4) within each 90-minute cycle. Near the end of our sleep in the morning, we spend lots of time in REM. We are designed to naturally wake up after a night’s sleep during a REM stage. If you wake up while you’re dreaming, you’re waking up at a good time.

Today’s New Habit: Craft your bedtime routine

Let’s build on the no screens before bed habit from last week.

Once your “go to bed” alarm goes off and you’ve put away your devices for the night, you need to start calming yourself down for bed. This might mean reading fiction in bed, taking a hot then cool shower (to lower your body temperature), or doing a short yoga or meditation practice. Whatever your body needs to wind down after a long day and start preparing it for sleep.

For the next two weeks, pick something that you think will help calm your body down for sleep and add it to your bedtime routine. Maybe it’s something you’re already doing, or maybe it’s something you’ve never tried before. Whatever it is, try to do it consistently for two weeks and see how it affects your sleep. We’ll check back in with you next week to see how you’re doing!