Want to ask your own question about sleep? You can write it here anonymously. During the upcoming weeks of the program, look out for answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Q: How can I fall asleep faster?
A: As discussed during Week 4, spend a bit of time becoming aware of what gets in the way of being able to fall asleep easily for you personally. For example, might it be distracting thoughts, physical discomfort, or noises from partners, pets, or street sounds? If there are tangible issues can be tackled, such as using a sound machine to block unwanted noise, that should be done first. In addition, here are general tips:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Your body will get used to the regular routine and start to feel sleepy when it’s bedtime. Sticking with the same sleep schedule every day can be hard, but it’s worth it! Keeping a consistent sleep schedule can help you feel more alert and less sleepy during the day. It can also improve your sleep efficiency, which is the percentage of time you spend in bed that you’re actually asleep. Pick a bedtime that works for you, and then stick with it!
- Reduce blue light exposure before bed. Blue light doesn’t really appear blue; it’s a specific wavelength your brain associates with being awake. Blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, a hormone that tells your brain it’s time to sleep. The amount or brightness of the light is the most important factor. If you’re someone who uses big, bright screens at night, see if you can adjust your device’s settings to filter blue light or invest in a pair of glasses designed to block the wavelength of blue light that can interfere with sleep.
- Cut caffeine consumption. Caffeine is a sneaky stimulant that can impact your body’s ability to sense that it’s time for sleep. Avoiding caffeine 6-8 hours before bed can help you fall asleep easier and have fewer interruptions throughout the night. An easy trick to remember is to cut off your caffeine consumption by 2:00 in the afternoon. But note that your genetic make-up determines your sensitivity to caffeine: Some people will get a full-day kick from a single espresso, whereas others can enjoy a double one before bed without any effect on sleep.
- Exercise, but not close to bedtime. Getting plenty of physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Sometimes we’re so busy, the only window for exercise is the end of the day. However, sleep experts recommend that it’s best to avoid exercising during the hours right before your bedtime, so you don’t feel overstimulated when trying to fall asleep.
- Wind down with a calming bedtime routine. A racing mind or other signs of feeling stress can keep you from falling asleep. Practicing a routine before bed that calms you down one hour before bed will help you fall asleep faster. It could be writing a to do list for the next day and then taking a warm bath and listening to relaxing music. Everyone is different, so spend a little time figuring out what works best for you personally.
- Establish a pre-sleep routine.In addition to winding down about an hour before bed, it’s great for your sleep to follow a regular pre-sleep routine. For example, this might be locking the doors, turning off the lights, brushing your teeth, using the bathroom, getting into bed, and reading for 10 minutes. As it becomes a ritual, your mind and body will relax as you prepare for bed.
Q: Does the SleepScore app work without plugging in the phone during the night?
A: The keys are sleep regularity and a solid duration of sleep. The amount of REM sleep increases at the end of the night and is a function of time spent asleep. It seems we first need to sleep off our tiredness (reflected in a lot deep sleep) and, if that dissipates, REM sleep gets more prominent.
Q: How many hours of sleep is really required of a person? If someone is used to sleeping 4 hours only and is fine with daily activities, is this sufficient scientifically?
A: Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. Some can do with 6 or need 10. Only a very, very, very few individuals can do with a 4-hour sleep every night. This is in your genes, but people who can deal with only 4 hours per night are very uncommon.