How to Get a Better Night of Sleep

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Before I had kids I had some great habits and routines. I ate properly, woke up at 4:30 every morning, exercised hard and often, accomplished so much in my work life that my income soared, and still had plenty of time for fun and relaxation. Somewhere along the road I lost it all.  But I know how to get it back.

The road along which I “lost it” is a little path you might have heard of called PARENTHOOD. All my schedules and routines were immediately crushed by the needs of the little people I adopted who were neither aware of my house rules, nor did they care. I slept, ate, cleaned house, and socialized when they allowed it.  I lost my business. I lost my mind and I gained weight.

It has taken five years to get my children and family healthy, happy, and adjusted. I guess I just expected my healthy habits and fit body to return as well. It didn’t.

Now I knew that what was missing was my good habits, routines and scheduling and I tried to recapture all that but I kept getting sabatoged by exhaustion.  I attributed it to stress, to lack of exercise, to staying up too late, etc. But then I remembered my old sleep strategy!  And my life has changed.

The strategy is based on planning your sleep around your body’s natural sleep cycles. Remember when we learned in school about REM (rapid eye movement) and the different phases of sleep? The body sleeps in 90 minutes cycles which are broken down into different phases. For our purposes here we can explain those cycles into 3 phases as follows.

*65 minutes of normal, non REM sleep.

*20 minutes of REM sleep, the very deepest sleep, when dreams occur.

*5 more minutes of of non REM sleep.

That 90 minute cycle is followed by a brief period of almost consciousness as your body prepares for the next 90 minute cycle.  You are very easily disturbed at this point and easily awakened. If you plan your wake up call for this moment in your sleep “limbo” you will have the most energetic, refreshing, productive day possible.

It is easy to do.You still want to shoot for 8 hours of sleep.  6 is really the bare minimum and 12 is too much. Keeping those parameters in mind, along with what time you must get up in the morning to be on time at work or school or wherever your day takes you, count backwards in 90 minute increments to find your optimum bed time.

For example. I like to get up at 4:30.  Sounds crazy right?  But it gives me 2 hours to workout, tidy up the house and simply enjoy some quiet before the kids get up for school. So from 4:30 I count backward in 90 minute increments… 4:30 to 3:00, (1.5 hours, definitely not enough sleep) 3:00 to 1:30 (3 hours, no way!) 1:30 to 12:00 (5.5 hours is still not enough), 12 to 10:30 (7 hours is pretty good. I can handle that if it was a late night of homework with the kids or I rented a good movie) 10:30 to 9:00. (8.5 hours of sleep! Perfect!).  So my routine is to be asleep by 9 but I know that if I don’t make it until 10:30 I am in good shape too.  By the same token, if I am out very late and don’t get home until the wee hours I would tweek my wake up time to accomodate that 90 minute cycle even if it means 30 minutes less of sleep. Because I know that extra 30 minutes is not going to be as beneficial to me respecting my body’s natural sleep patterns.

I discovered this 90 minute sleep cycle strategy when I was 24 from an amazing and new age-ish co-worker who went on to enrich my life for years with her unconventional wisdom. I used the strategy until I was 35 and went into new mom “just-trying-to-survive” mode. While using the sleep strategy I never had to use an alarm clock, regardless of what time I went to bed.  After years without using the strategy I didn’t even hear my alarm clock and I woke up sick and groggy every day despite how early I went to bed.

I don’t know what made me remember the strategy, but I am so glad I did.  I suppose it was from finally getting my adopted children settled and coming out of a few years of intensity and challenge. The 90 minute sleep rule changed my life once before and I am enjoying watching it transform my life once again.

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