On average, humans sleep for a full 24 years. That is almost one third of our life. Sleep is essential for survival and not sleeping is deadly in the long run. Too little sleep can also be detrimental to our health in the long term. Here we address questions about sleep to learn more about these 24 years of our lives.
What is sleep and why do we sleep ?
We all know it, but what is it actually - sleep is something that connects (almost) all life forms with each other, it is a daily recurring state. During sleep, the body and mind are supposed to come to rest. While the muscles relax, the brain remains active. The state of the brain is different from the waking phase and is more like a maintenance state. The brain cleans itself up, ensures order and processes the incoming information of the day.
What are sleep phases?
Sleep can be divided into several stages. From going to bed to getting up, it can be broken down into 4 rough steps. In addition, there is a cycle of sleep phases that repeats every 80 to 110 minutes.
- The first step is preparation. The body starts to get tired, you start to yawn and your eyelids slowly fall shut. Our body is telling us that bedtime is coming and it needs rest and recovery.
- Awareness of surroundings slowly fades and you fall asleep. As we fall asleep, eye movements slow down and begin to roll. While the body temperature drops slightly, the body releases moisture.
- Now the actual sleep begins, consisting of the 5 phases of sleep in the cycle. The first phase is light sheep, when we slowly fall asleep and transition into sleep mode. The second phase, deep sleep, allows the brain and body to relax and the brain reduces its activity. This phase is the most important for resting the body and mind. One is most difficult to wake up and should not be woken up. Afterwards, the body activity changes and the so-called REM sleep begins. REM as in Rapid Eye Movement. The body ramps up its activity, you dream and wake up briefly before the cycle starts all over again. Normally, we are not aware of this waking phase.
- Towards morning, the number of restful cycles with deep sleep decreases and the body becomes more active again. Most of the time, we finally wake up after a REM phase. The temperature is raised again by the body before waking up, like a heater preparing for the day.
How many hours should you sleep?
The optimal length of sleep varies from people who feel well rested with 5 hours of sleep to people who need 10 hours of sleep to feel well rested.
A simple test is how tired you are in the afternoon. Can you still do concentrated work sitting down in the afternoon without getting heavy eyelids and nodding off? Then the probability is very high that you have fulfilled your sleep quota.
Whether or not your sleep is giving you the rest you need depends on more factors than just how long you sleep. Here are several methods to help you get a more restful night's sleep.
Getting a good night's sleep can reduce the amount of time you spend sleeping. Recent research has shown that long sleepers can reduce their sleep time to up to 6.5 hours without compromising their health. Short sleepers can even reduce their sleep time to 5 hours. The decisive factor here is the quality of sleep - shorter sleep only works if you also sleep better at the same time.
Long sleepers and short sleepers - Which sleep type are you?
Whether someone is a short sleeper and can get by on 5 hours in extreme cases or whether someone is a long sleeper and would prefer 11 hours of sleep is basically an inborn habit that can change again in the course of life.
Larks and owls
Whether you're a short sleeper or a long sleeper, larks and owls come in both categories. Larks are referred to as morning people. They are up early, but sleep early in return. The owl is the night person, he stays awake a large part of the night and sleeps for it then but also gladly until late morning or early noon.
Science is debating whether early rising is genetically transmitted, or whether it is a habit that can be learned. Several statistics have proven that people who get up early are happier than late risers. Ideas such as the 5am Club suggest that anyone is capable of becoming a successful lark with the right method.
Can missing sleep be made up for?
Unlike missing water, which you can read more about here, missing sleep can actually be made up to a certain extent. The University of Pennsylvania study showed: Those who sleep less and then sleep in again regain some strength. Those who sleep too little during the week can use the weekend to recharge their batteries.
Methods for the most restful sleep possible
It's the quality and not the quantity that counts, at least when it comes to sleep - as long as a minimum of 5 - 6.5 hours is maintained. To make this sleep especially restful, we have collected a few tips for you here.
Balancing the day-night rhythm
The body loves routines, you can find out more in our posts about the 5am Club here and Deep Work here. If you're a poor sleeper, more routines in your life could do you good. Make sure to get up at the same time each day if possible. Changing times at the weekend can make it difficult for you to start the new week, and by the end of the next weekend you're already struggling again. Just because sleep is excellent to catch up on doesn't mean you should do it regularly. If you sleep late in the morning, you'll have trouble falling asleep early in the evening.
Significant day/night difference in brightness
Our body reacts to light. For the best possible sleep, rooms should be as dark and cool as possible at night. During the day, on the other hand, it has to be bright so that we can sleep well later on.
The most disturbing light is that from electronic devices. Ideally, you should stay away from them before going to bed. The blue light components of the screens make the body believe that the sun is rising. This prevents the release of melatonin to fall asleep again.
Humidity and temperature
It must not be too warm for a good night's sleep. The body likes low temperatures at night. By lowering your own body temperature, a warm environment is just another stressor.
High humidity also tends to be detrimental to a good night's sleep. There should also be an exchange of air during the night. When you fall asleep, your body releases a lot of fluid. This evaporates on the skin and increases the humidity in the room. If the body is dehydrated in the evening, it also harms sleep. This should be prevented with a glass of water.
Routines for good sleep
The quality of sleep benefits from routines. Schedule restful times before sleep when you avoid electronic devices. Try to retire at the same time each day, whether during the week or on weekends. Incorporate other things such as the glass of water before going to bed, depending on your taste, you can find out more here.
We hope you've learned more about sleep. Don't necessarily sleep longer, but sleep long enough to get good quality sleep. The secret of successful sleep lies in routines, which are regularly worked through.