So, you are doing the right thing and getting the proper quantity of sleep, but how do you improve the quality? First, it is important to understand the five stages of the sleep cycle. Stage one is the transition to sleep. It lasts for about five minutes and is when muscles begin to relax. Stage two is light sleep, lasting for 10 to 25 minutes. This stage is when body temperature decreases and heart slows down. Stage three is deep sleep. You become difficult to awaken, and if your sleep is interrupted you may be disoriented and groggy for a short time. Stage four is a deeper sleep, where brain waves are very slow and circulation is directed at the muscles. This is the physically restorative stage of sleep you have heard about. The fifth stage is REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is when you dream. Your eyes move rapidly back and forth, your arms and legs are paralyzed, and breathing is shallow. This stage occurs about 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep. These stages repeat themselves throughout the night with the deepest sleep occurring in the first half of the night. Allowing enough time for these cycles will help you to get up early.
One suggestion to sleep better is to set a regular bedtime and get up at the same time each day. This gets your body used to a regular sleep schedule. Since the stages of sleep occur in 90 minute cycles, set your alarm to allow for seven and a half hours of sleep instead of eight. For example, if you go to bed at 10:00 p.m. you will feel more rested at 5:30 a.m. then you will at 6:00 a.m. because you will be in between sleep cycles. Once your body is used to your schedule, you will be able to get up early without dependence on an alarm clock since you sleep better at night.
Make your sleeping environment more restful. Having a television in the bedroom may temp you to stay awake to watch or may disrupt your sleep patterns. To help mask outside noises, use a method of producing white noise, such as a fan or a soothing sound like a recording of a water fall. In addition to limiting sound stimulation, your bedroom should be cool and dark. Light can confuse the body’s natural clock, making quality sleep difficult. If the room is too warm or too cold, you become too uncomfortable preventing the chance to sleep better and get up early.
Now that the environment is set for sleep, mentally prepare yourself. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Being fully relaxed will help you to sleep better. If you make this part of your bedtime routine, it becomes second nature and you will fall asleep easier and faster, getting good quality sleep. You will find that you are able to get up early, refreshed and on time with no alarm clock.
In the next post, we will explore products available to help you get up early. Please post your comments and advice here to help others.