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12 Tips for Better Sleep: Part 1­—Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule


We all love sleep. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we spend so much time searching for the perfect pillow and the perfect mattress—to ensure we get the best night’s sleep possible. But now that you’ve found the perfect pillow (if not, go here), it’s time to take your sleep to the next level.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the perfect sleep habits don’t develop overnight. Get it? It takes time to get your body and mind accustomed to sleeping the right way.

That’s why we’re creating a series of how-to articles to help you understand the importance of sleep, how to get enough sleep, and how to improve the quality of your sleep. Because while we’d like to think the Pillow Cube can solve all your sleeping problems, there are more things to consider than wonky spine alignment.

For example, did you know that sleep disorders, like insomnia, affect 45% of the world’s population? That’s kind of a huge problem. In fact, that constitutes a global epidemic. So, we want to help all sleepers, not just the beloved side-sleepers, get a better night’s sleep.

Let’s get started and create better sleep habits so we can kick our sleep issues and disorders in the butt.

 

Part 1: Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Every parenting book talks about the importance of maintaining a daily schedule for your baby. Creating a predictable and consistent eating and sleeping routine for your babies is vital for their development and health.

But we’re not babies anymore. At some point, we stopped caring about the schedule. Whether our sleep rebellion started in high school or college, most of us stop going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.

But is it really that important to sleep at the same time every day if we’re getting enough sleep? YES! It’s super important. In fact, going to sleep and waking up at the same time of day is the single most effective way to improve your sleep.

 

How much sleep do I need?

By going to sleep and waking up at the same time, you ensure you get enough sleep each night. Now you may be asking yourself, “Am I getting enough sleep?” To answer that, think about these questions:

  •     After waking up in the morning, could I go back to sleep at 10 or 11 am?
  •     Do I need caffeine before noon to make it through the day?
  •     If I don’t set an alarm, will I sleep past my wake-up time?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not getting enough sleep.

While every person is different, healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. And if you’re thinking, “I can get by with 5 hours a night.” That might be true, but we’re not talking about “getting by.” We’re talking about better, more effective sleep that leaves you rested and prepared for your day.

So, why is it so important to get the full 7 to 9 hours of sleep? It’s all about sleep cycles.

 

Sleep Cycles

I was always under the impression that there were two stages of sleep: NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep and then REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. You experience one, then the other, then you wake up. But I was totally wrong; it’s way more complicated.

While those are the two main types of sleep, your total night’s sleep is actually made up of several rounds of the “sleep cycle,” which is composed of 4 stages. It looks something like this:

 

Sleep Stage

Type of Sleep

Regular Length

Stage 1

NREM

1-5 minutes

Stage 2

NREM

10-60 minutes

Stage 3

NREM (Deep sleep)

20-40 minutes

Stage 4

REM

10-60 minutes

 

The typical person goes through this sleep cycle 4 to 7 times a night, and each cycle varies in length.

You’ll notice you only have one sleep stage in REM sleep. This is the time when you have the most vivid dreams. And it’s believed to be the most important sleep stage for cognitive functions, like memory, learning, and creativity. Essentially, if you don’t get enough REM sleep, cognitive function begins to suffer.

It usually takes about 90 minutes to enter the REM stage, and the first REM cycle may only last a few minutes. As the night goes on, the REM stage gets longer and longer and later stages can last for up to an hour. So, it’s important that your body goes through the cycle several times in order to get enough REM sleep.

While I love me some good REM sleep, every stage in the sleep cycle is important, because they allow both the body and brain to recuperate and develop. In fact, failure to get enough deep sleep and REM sleep can lead to serious consequences on thinking, emotions, and physical health.

If you need more reasons to get more sleep, studies have shown that improving your sleep can actually reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease — or at least delay its onset. That’s pretty nuts and really important to know.

This explanation of sleep cycles was a really long way to say that you should go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day in order to get the necessary amount of NREM and REM sleep each night. It’s super important.

 

Sleeping In

There’s nothing better than sleeping in on the weekends, am I right? But I have some bad news for you. It turns out that sleeping in on the weekends, also known as binge sleeping, doesn’t work. I know; it’s a real bummer.

In 2017, a study showed that women who spent 2 or more hours catching up on sleep over the weekend were actually more likely to have poor cardiovascular health. The takeaway: sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t make up for a lack of sleep during the week.

So, as much as we love those lazy weekend mornings, it’s best to avoid drastically changing your sleep pattern between week days and the weekend.

 

Night Owls

Did you know that being a night owl or a morning person is genetic? It’s true. If one of your parents can’t go to sleep until after midnight, there’s a good chance you’ll have the same tendency. This only becomes a problem if you work a typical 9-5 job.

The typical workday schedule favors morning larks and punished night owls. Which means night owls are often seen as lazy, because they can’t wake up before noon. But the truth is that they have a delayed sleep schedule, and it’s not something they can’t control. Instead of reaching their peak working hours between 9 and 5, their best work is done after the work day ends.

If you’re thinking, “I can’t get enough sleep, because I can’t fall asleep until the early morning hours, and then I’m expected at work at 9 am,” the solution might be a schedule change. I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but COVID-19 has shown us that we’re adaptable and can work pretty much anytime from anywhere. So, talk with your boss and see what options you have. And if it means getting better work out of a well-rested employee, they might be into it.

 

Bedtime Alarm

We typically use alarms to wake up in the morning. But have you ever considered setting an alarm for bedtime? I know it sounds a little weird, but it’s a great way to get yourself on a good sleep schedule.

Instead of binge-watching Netflix into the wee morning hours, set a time limit. This will ensure you go to bed at a reasonable time and are well-rested in the morning. I know, this change may force you to start watching Squid Game at 6 pm, but it will be worth it.

Having a regular bedtime and setting alarms sounds like a drag—we get it. But it really is the best way to get better sleep, which means a healthier, happier you. And while there are always going to be some late nights and crying babies and a million other things that get in the way of sleep, it’s important to do everything you can to make better sleep a part of your routine.

For more tips to improve your sleep, stay tuned for our next post about the relationship between sleep and exercise. See you then!