Sleep cycling – when is the best time for you to wake up?

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The natural order is one of cycles. Day and night, birth and death, the moon and the tides, sleep and wakefulness. Everything works better when our bodies are aligned to this natural rhythm. What this means is that you cannot cheat your way to instant good sleep in the same way that you cannot cheat your way to long-term weight loss.

Our biological clock has a preference and that is 7.5 - 9 hours of sleep in 90 minute sleep cycles. Fighting biology is never a good idea - in the end your biology usually wins and who wants every day and night to feel like a battle? Here is a way to ensure you are ready for the day when your alarm clock sounds.

We cycle through three stages of deep sleep (falling deeper and deeper and deeper to sleep) before hitting Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep prior to waking. We all wake briefly every 90 minutes but usually fall asleep again without much registration and may not even remember waking the next morning.

Ideally, you want to wake up at the end of a cycle - not in the middle! This is because it is at this point that you are in your deepest sleep and will feel dreadful. Set your alarm clock for a time when you are likely to be coming out of REM sleep and you will find it far easier to jump out of bed. If you usually go to bed at 9:30pm then you will feel far better waking at 6.30am then at 6:00am or 7:00am. Alternately, if you usually go to bed at 11:00pm then your wake time should be at 6:30am or 8:00am giving you a total of 7.5 hours or 9 hours respectively.

The tricky bit is if you are not getting at least 7.5 hours undisturbed sleep every night due to either not being able to fall asleep on time or because of night wakings. If this has been the case then you may need to get back in touch with your biology and try to schedule a sleep holiday where you sleep as your body desires. You go to bed as soon as you feel sleepy and wake up only when your body does so naturally. Track these times and you should be able to see what your ideal schedule is within a week or two.

A sleep holiday... now that sounds dreamy indeed!

- The Sleep Expert

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