Maybe you've noticed that you're the type of person who can only function on nine, perhaps even nine and a half hours of sleep (same, girl). Or maybe you're one of those rare people who's cool with five or six hours of rest in one night. (Seriously though, how?) While the general recommended amount of sleep per night is usually somewhere between seven and nine hours, I've always wondered how on Earth seven hours of sleep is enough for anyone. Because, like I said, I personally feel like a zombie when I don't clock in closer to eight or nine hours of rest in one night. So does it really vary that much from person to person? Or is seven hours a "magic number" of sorts?
Well, according to Dr. Michael Breus, sleep expert and NightFood scientific advisor, the amount of sleep someone needs per night does vary, to an extent. "Every individual's 'sleep requirement' is different," he tells Elite Daily over email. "And this difference can even change based on activity level, illness, general medical condition, etc."
However, Breus says what may be even more important to consider than the amount of sleep you get per night, is how many sleep cycles you're going through each night.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a sleep cycle basically refers to a pattern of five stages, which can be categorized as "two distinct parts – NREM, or Non-REM sleep, plus a REM or 'Rapid Eye Movement' cycle." REM sleep, as per the organization, "plays an important role in learning and memory function," and it's when you're most likely to start dreaming. On average, the foundation says most adults experience five to six cycles of REM sleep in one night, with each cycle lasting up to an hour. Similarly, Breus tells Elite Daily he recommends that the average adult reaches five sleep cycles in one night, which he says should total to around seven and a half hours.
Using this basic model of how sleep cycles work, Breus explains, you can calculate your own sleep schedule based on the time you need or want to wake up the next morning, and from there, you can create an ideal bedtime. "In creating a nightly sleep routine and an ideal bedtime, you’re working to meet a couple of fundamental sleep goals: getting enough sleep, and making sure it is high-quality rest," he tells Elite Daily.
Dr. Breus says that creating "your ideal bedtime" significantly increases the chances that you’ll get both the quantity and the quality of sleep you need. "You may be unsure about the right bedtime, but you’re likely to know exactly what your wake time needs to be," he explains. "That’s because most people have what I call a socially determined wake-up time. There is some external commitment that dictates when we must wake and begin our day. Most of us do not have a wake time that is wholly within our control."
Bedtime, on the other hand, Dr. Breus says, offers much more discretion and freedom. So when it comes to figuring out your ideal bedtime, the sleep expert suggests you start by solidifying your wake time. Then, since the average sleep cycle is about 90 minutes long, Breus says, and a typical night of sleep includes five full sleep cycles, that means you're counting back seven and a half hours from the time you need to be awake.
But, of course, this isn't a totally foolproof method. Again, as Breus explains, the amount of sleep someone needs can vary greatly from person to person, depending on their unique body and lifestyle.
Regardless, if you're looking to experiment with different bedtimes to see how it affects your energy levels and your overall well-being, Dr. Breus says that once you land on an established time to go to sleep, try to stick to it for at least a week to feel out how it's working for you."The goal is to wake naturally about five to 10 minutes ahead of your alarm," he tells Elite Daily. "If you find yourself waking significantly ahead of your alarm, move your bedtime slightly later. If after a week, you’re still sleeping right through to your alarm, you need to shift your bedtime earlier."
When trying different bedtimes, Breus suggests doing so in 15-minute increments — i.e. trying, say, a 10:00 p.m. bedtime first, then switching to 10:15 if you're still waking up long before your alarm — until you naturally find yourself stirring awake a few minutes before your alarm.
Dang, can you imagine waking up before your alarm? And actually feeling well-rested? Well, Dr. Breus says it's possible, and he adds that consistency, or at least aiming for consistency, is major.