We should spend up to one-third of our day asleep and most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important. But with all the daily obligations, it’s easier said than done.
Yet being well-rested is a key element to win over the board especially since you’ll be more focused and more alert.
If lifestyle factors are affecting the quantity and quality of your sleep, maybe it’s time to seriously tackle the problem and follow the steps above to help you master your sleep.
How many hours should I sleep?
According to this study realized by the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. But the report also says that every individual need is different, so some people will perform great with 6 hours while others could need 10 hours to feel rested.
Then how can you know how many hours of sleep you need exactly? The only way to be totally sure is to test it by sleeping as natural as possible for minimum 2 weeks.
But what is a good night sleep?
Before entering the first phase of the test, let’s review what is considered as a quality night’s sleep. You understood it well, it will be necessary to insure you are well-rested every day for the test to be valid.
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a review of 277 studies to determine 4 factors which define a quality night’s sleep:
- You take half an hour or less to fall asleep.
- You wake up no more than once per night.
- If you do wake up in the middle of the night, you fall back asleep within 20 minutes.
- You’re asleep for at least 85 percent of the time you spend in bed.
Discover your natural sleeping needs
Ready for the test now?
Step 1: plan 2 to 3 weeks of flexible schedule
Be sure you will not be interrupted while sleeping during 2 to 3 weeks. Vacation time could of course be ideal for such a test. Remember that you are not alone, so let your partner and children know you will be attempting this test.
Step 2: prepare your day
At this step, you have probably understood that you will have to be rigorous while doing the test. So here are the precautions you need to take throughout the day:
- Get more sunlight during the day, especially early in the morning between 6 am and 8am. You can eat lunch or take your breakfast outside for instance.
- Stop drinking caffeine 8 to 14 hours before you sleep
- Prepare your bedroom: forget the lights and think of your room as a cave. Remember to check the temperature. It must ideally be around 15 to 20 Celsius degrees. Use a pair of warm socks if your feet are too cold.
- Put your mobile on airplane mode 2 hours before bedtime and leave all your electronic devices out of your bedroom.
- Don’t drink any alcohol during the test period.
Step 3: create a nighttime ritual
Plan exactly what you’ll do the last 60 minutes before going to sleep. You’ll use this time to relax and by following your routine, it will be easier to fall asleep when you know you need to.
Things you can do:
- Read books
- Prepare any stuff that could help you make your morning life easier (you can make the table ready for breakfast or choose your clothes for instance)
- Relaxing activities (casual conversations with family, play cards or games, yoga…)
- Plan your goals for tomorrow
Things to avoid:
- Bright lights
- Electronic devices
- No more eating or drinking
- Exercise, or anything stimulating (video games, etc.)
Step 4: pick your ideal bedtime and wake up naturally
You can now pick what you would like to be your ideal bedtime. Every day, you must be in your bed 30 minutes before the chosen hour. Then,allow your body to wake up naturally. Do not use an alarm clock even if you have the impression you’ve slept too much the first few days. Chances are you’re only paying off your sleep debt.
One last thing, don’t sleep for sleep. If you feel sufficiently rested, just wake up and start your day.
Step 5: follow steps 1 to 4 with accuracy and identify your natural sleeping needs
Make sure you followed all the previous pieces of advice and stick to them during the whole test period. After two weeks, you should see the results and realize you wake up naturally at the same time every day.
Congratulations! You’ve identified the amount of sleep you need.
Yes this test can be hard to maintain while continuing your social activities, but don’t forget it’s only 2 to 3 weeks and will be clearly worth it once you know precisely the amount of sleep you need to be sufficiently rested.
Moreover, you’ll maintain the benefits from the test in the long run and use them in your daily lives. According to what Michael Breus, Diplomate of the Amercian Board of Sleep Medecine, explains in his book[i], here are the recommendations:
- Adapt your sleep needs to your regular working schedule and your desires in the morning by choosing the exact time you would like to wake up every day (weekends included)
- Respect you wake up time even if you go to bed later (even really later) than your ideal bedtime, and catch up with a nap during the day. If you really feel tired, you can also try the placebo sleep trick.
- Last resort if you really need to sleep in, you can add an extra hour maximum.
Last but not least, enjoy your sleep and use the extra energy from it to play long games over the chessboard. Maybe it will get you a few points here and there.
[i] Breus, M. (2016). The power of when. London, the United Kingdom. Vermilion.