Eight hours of sleep is the commonly accepted goal amount of sleep for adults, however, our sleep needs vary from person to person. It would be nice if every human could have access to all the hours of sleep we need! The reality is, our schedules as employees, business owners, parents, students, etc., keep some of us from getting a full night’s sleep.
Our best bet is to do what we can to make sure every moment we spend in bed is spent on sleep.
The easiest way to do this is to increase sleep regularity. Simply put, we can enforce bedtime and wake time for ourselves to follow every day.
Following a regular bedtime and wake time will help our bodies keep their natural circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a process that occurs daily and regulates our sleep-wake cycles. It is what helps our bodies anticipate sleep, sets us up for mental and physical recovery, and prepares us to be alert and focused for the day.
Our bodies start preparing for bed before we do! About two hours before bedtime, our bodies release a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin releases in response to darkness. It helps our bodies relax and enter slow-wave sleep (SWS), the first phase of sleep. This is where most of the physical reparations happen.
The next phase of sleep is rapid eye movement sleep (REM), where our brains repair and sort through the information they received for the day.
By going to bed at the same time every night, our bodies can enter SWS faster and maximize the time allotted for physical reparation. In turn, we can enjoy sustained energy levels throughout the day, less soreness/tiredness, and have the capacity to push harder in our workouts.
If our bedtimes vary from night to night, our bodies have trouble anticipating sleep. Melatonin production might delay, and it may take longer to transition from awake to SWS. When this happens, our deep sleep will be cut short. REM sleep will creep into the time allotted for SWS, giving neither our brain nor bodies enough time to repair.
As a result of sub-par sleep we may feel more tired mentally and physically, experience slowness in processing and reacting, lose the ability to push in our workouts, and are more susceptible to injury.
If something unavoidable is keeping you from getting a proper night’s sleep, take revenge! Enforcing a regular bedtime and wake time will help you maximize your time in bed, help your body rest efficiently, and increase physical and mental performance throughout the day!