Everything you need to know about sleep: how to fall asleep fast and wake up feeling good
Everything you need to know about sleep: how to fall asleep fast and wake up feeling good
I used to sleep for 12-16 hours a day and take many naps, and I still feel like I didn’t have energy. I was exhausted all day and had no drive to do many of my daily activities, let alone spend time with family and friends or doing anything fun. Then, I learned some tips that helped me fall asleep faster, stay asleep all night, and sleep only 6-8 hours but still wake up feeling refreshed and energized. I will share these tips with you here:
(Before we start, just know that there is also a medical condition called adrenal fatigue, or a similar medical condition, that can make you feel very tired and have low energy. There are actually many medical imbalances or conditions that can make you feel this way. Seeing a doctor may rule out any of these possibilities, it’s always a good idea. You can find a link on how to make an appointment and talk with your doctor about this here, and your can read up more on adrenal fatigue if you are interested here.)
Now, let’s get started! These are some simple habits that you can incorporate into your routine that could help your sleep schedule and improve your quality of sleep.
Here are some habits that I implemented into my schedule that helped me feel better and have more energy:
1.) Starting a sleep schedule and sticking to it.
It is important to try to fall asleep by 10, but no later than 11.
Why 10:00 or 11:00 PM?
This is because, after around 11:00 PM, our bodies will release another shot of cortisol into our systems to help us stay awake. Cortisol is a hormone that helps us have energy and it is primarily released in the morning when you wake up to help you start the day. (It is also released during stressful times and fight-or-flight when our bodies respond to stress)
Have you ever felt really sleepy late at night, and then right when you get ready to go to bed, you can’t fall asleep? Even though you try everything, you lie there will all the energy in the world, but just minutes beforehand you could have fallen asleep fully dressed. Boom.
This is due to the adrenal glands and their ability to release hormones that keep you awake because the optimum sleep window for you had passed. How do you tell what your optimum sleep window is, or the best time to fall asleep before your body releases extra hormones to keep you awake? Well, a good rule of thumb that I heard from my doctor is around 10:00-11:00 PM, however, you’ll know for yourself personally by how tired your body feels. It’s always a good idea to listen to your body and to fall asleep when you feel most tired, as this will give you the best chance of falling asleep faster. Sometimes, for me, it’s 9:30 if it’s a busy and difficult day. Some days, its 10:00, usually it’s 11:00. Because sleep needs can vary within that time window, I set myself up for success by getting ready for bed and getting all my tasks done before 9, so that I can just chill and relax by the time 9:30 rolls around and then fall asleep whenever the sleepiness hits me.
I will admit, though, I’m not always as good at getting ready for bed and I have been known to just fall asleep as soon as I feel tired because I don’t want to miss that optimum sleep window, that’s how important I feel about it. Granted, that sometimes means falling asleep in full clothes and my makeup from the day before because maybe -I’m lazy-. But you have to make your own choice on how you want to live your life 😉
But the main point is- it’s important to find your optimal sleep window and fall asleep when you feel most tired. This will greatly enhance your sleep and help you fall asleep more quickly.
How many hours to sleep:
Only sleep for 7.5-8 hours a night, but be careful not to go over, because excess sleep can make you feel more lethargic throughout the day. Really, it’s better to sleep for 7.5 hours than for 14 hours in most cases because sleeping for too long can also wear out your adrenal glands, which are the glands that promote energy and help regulate your sleep patterns.
For me, the magic number is 7.5 hours, since one complete sleep cycle is 90-minutes.
THIS FACT ALONE HAS CHANGED MY LIFE- DRASTICALLY.
According a helpful article I found on sleep, sleep cycles go in 90-minute bursts, with the deepest sleep being in the middle of the 90-minute cycle, and the lightest sleep being at the end. So if you time your nights right so that you go to sleep at a certain time and happen to wake up at the end of a 90-minute cycle, you will not be as tired when you wake up because you won’t be waking from such deep a sleep. I have been using this tip every day for the past three years and it has helped me wake up not groggy and actually energized- it’s life changing.
So what does the timing look like for a 90-minute sleep cycle? When should you go to sleep or wake up?
I have found that 7.5 hours works well for me because this allows 5 complete 90-minute sleep cycles. If you subtract 90-minutes from 7.5 hours, you get 6 hours, so this is my back-up plan when I can’t sleep 7.5 hours. I use this tip as a helpful one when I am running short on time: I will sleep for only 6 hours because even though that is only 4 sleep cycles, that will allow me to wake up at the end of the last 90-minute cycle when my body is in its lightest resting phase, which means I won’t wake up feeling tired but actually wake up energized. I have tested this on myself for the past couple years and it has worked wonders, even if I only get 6 hours of sleep some nights.
So here are the times you could sleep to wake up at the end of your 90-minute sleep cycle:
7.5 hours – optimum – (5 cycles)
6 – hours – – good for when you’re short on time – (4 cycles)
4.5 hours – not ideal, but if you have to this will work because at least you’ll time it so you wake up at the end of the 3rd 90-minute cycle- (3 cycles)
Before going to bed, it is best to avoid bright light, especially the light from computer screens or other electronics, as those will prevent your body from producing melatonin before bedtime, making your sleep time less restful when you wake up. I’ve heard different opinions on when these devices should be turned off — some studies say 1-2 hours before bed, but I also know people who don’t use technology 4 hours before they go to sleep. For me, I think 2 hours is a good amount of time to let my body unwind before bed without checking my phone or computer, but this can vary from person to person, so I’d say try different things and see what works for you. (For me, since I started following a regular sleep schedule, I’ve found that I am able to get around 7.5 hours (and sometimes even 6 hours on rare occasions) of sleep and still wake up feeling refreshed.
This new sleep schedule might take a couple weeks to take effect since you are resetting your body’s circadian rhythm, so I’d say don’t give up, stick to it and you’ll eventually see really good improvements in your quality of sleep. Trust me, it will be worth it when you finally start to feel more energized!
2.) Lower stress and eat healthy.
It’s sometimes difficult to lower stress, but it’s important to incorporate some type of enjoyable activity or stress relief into your daily routine. Stress activates the fight-or-flight response, which will severely deplete the adrenal glands if sustained over a long period. So, the more you can find time to exercise, or breathe deeply, or do anything else that will help your stress levels, this will greatly help heal your adrenal glands. Also, drinking lots of water and including fruits, vegetables, healthy sources of protein, etc. into your diet does wonders to help your body heal itself and find balance.
Here is a good site to help you find which stress-reduction method is best for you:
The key here is moderation. If you are currently not exercising on a weekly basis, then adding in some light exercise a couple times a week will benefit your adrenal system.
However, there is also such a thing as over-exercising, and this can greatly tax your adrenal glands. If you spend every day in the gym, or exercise for more than a few hours at a time, it is possible that your adrenal glands may become overexerted from all of this physical activity. (I’m a dancer, and at one point, I was practicing for over 20 hours a week, which I later found out was too much for my body to handle.)
The number of hours per week of excess exercise will be different for every person, depending on their age and fitness level. As every person is different, only a recommendation from your doctor can be trusted in regards to questions about your optimal health. I’d recommend listening to your body and keeping a close eye on how your current level of exercise is affecting your energy levels, and also getting a second opinion from a professional.
Other helpful tips for falling and staying asleep all night:
– First, the thing that helped the most was to avoid all sources of light throughout the night. I would cover my windows so the sunlight couldn’t get in, since it would often be light outside by 5AM and I would wake up. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I noticed if I turned on the bathroom light, or even a nightlight, it would wake me up and I found it hard to go back to sleep. I’d say, make it as dark in your room as possible, and even cover your clock and electronics’ lights, since any amount of light at night will affect your brain’s ability to produce melatonin and keep you asleep for longer.
– Also, something that kept me up at night that helped dramatically when I fixed it was making sure I wasn’t dehydrated before going to bed. I noticed that, if I hadn’t consumed enough water throughout the day, I could initially fall asleep, but my body would wake up around 3:30-5 AM parched. After I started drinking water throughout the day, this lessened. (I make sure to get most of my water in throughout the entire day and not drink too much water 2 hours before bed so I won’t need to wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom — I’d say as long as you get your daily water in during the day, this should help you sleep better.)
– Next, it could be something as simple as the temperature of the room. When my room is too hot, I find it difficult to go back to sleep after waking up.
– Last, I noticed that, when I exercise during the day, I almost always sleep better than when I do not. I don’t do anything too strenuous — just 20 minutes of cardio and some strength training, and I’ll have a deeper sleep. However, for me, if I exercise after 6 PM, it has the opposite effect and gives me energy at night and I find it almost impossible to go to sleep. When planning exercise times, I’d recommend the earlier the better, but starting at 5 PM at the latest and finishing by 6 PM has been the latest time I can personally exercise, without it having the opposite effect and keeping me awake. Consult your physician with any questions about exercise, as he or she can give you a professional, personalized recommendation.