Advice from Rut Ruiz, scientific editor at AdSalutem Instituto del sueño, a BBHI partner in the field of sleep.
Actually, you don’t even need an alarm clock to get up in the morning. If you get enough sleep, your body and mind will do it without help.
The feeling of restful sleep is the result of the achievement of what we call sleep architecture. This is a structure that repeats itself throughout the night – around 5.6 cycles if we sleep for 8 hours – consisting of 4 distinct stages. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes.
Stage one and stage two of sleep are considered light sleep, as our bodies prepare to enter deeper sleep. Stage three sleep is known as deep or slow-wave sleep, and corresponds to the body’s repair and restoration phase. Finally, stage four, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is the phase in which we dream. A kind of simulation that helps us consolidate memory, learn and modulate our emotional response to experiences.
So, in order to wake up feeling well rested, we need to get enough deep sleep and REM sleep.
Moreover, we feel more refreshed and vital when we wake up during light sleep – stages one and two of the cycle – than when we wake up during deep sleep or REM sleep, because in the former case we may feel groggy and in the latter case we may feel disoriented when we come out of the “dreaming” phase.
It is possible to train ourselves to stick to our desired sleep schedule, adapted to our rhythm of life. We just need to recognise our biological preference for a sleep schedule (chronotype), be regular in our habits, practice sleep hygiene guidelines and make sure we get enough sleep according to the stage of life we are in.
Sleep hygiene tips for better sleep
The aim of sleep hygiene is to adopt or redirect habits and behaviours so that they are healthier for sleep. Our beliefs, behaviour and, in particular, the routines we do on a daily basis and before going to sleep, have the capacity to affect the quality of our sleep.
Create the right bedroom environment: a dark, cool and quiet bedroom should help you fall asleep.
Stick to your schedule: waking up and going to bed at the same time every day is one of the best ways to combat sleep problems. If we are sleep-deprived, a short, scheduled nap in the early afternoon is preferable to sleeping in on weekends, as extending your sleep schedule may disrupt your circadian rhythm, which we call social jet lag.
Protect yourself from inappropriate use of screens: blue light inhibits melatonin, a hormone that signals that it is time to sleep, so the body may interpret that it is still daylight.
Take advantage of sunlight: Exposure to daylight in the early hours of the day helps us to keep our biological clock on time and protect our body’s rhythms.
Exercise and eat well: Exercising and eating well can help you sleep better at night, as long as you don’t exercise too late in the day. Cut down on alcohol and caffeine, as these stimulants can disrupt sleep.
Take care of stress: If you find it hard to relax in the evening, try including relaxing routines such as reading, a bath or other activities you enjoy. If it is still difficult, try meditation or other relaxation techniques.