A “normal” sleeping pattern involves getting eight hours of restful sleep per night and cycling through all four sleep phases without interruption. It also means you’re able to fall asleep relatively quickly (within 15-20 minutes) after lying down and you regularly wake up feeling refreshed. Does this sound like you? If not, you’re hardly alone.
Factors like age, stress levels, and lifestyle habits all affect how much a person needs to sleep in order to feel ready to go the next day. Additionally, sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia limit the amount of quality sleep a person gets.
A normal sleeping pattern for one person won’t be the same for another.
The amount and quality are important to maintain a regular sleep schedule, but consistency is often the third attribute people miss in order to find their normal.
How to Determine Your Quality of Sleep
Being in bed for eight hours doesn’t constitute a true quality of sleep. Do a quick assessment on your current sleeping pattern:
- Does it typically take you a long time to fall asleep?
- Do you wake up multiple times a night?
- How do you feel when you wake up?
By following the four phases of a normal sleep cycle, a person can get the optimal sleep they need. The first phase is the lightest sleep cycle. This is when your mind drifts in and out of consciousness and you’re easily woken up. Often the first phase is the level reached when napping. If you are easily disturbed during the night, you may not have entered into the later phases of sleep and will wake up feeling sleep-deprived.
In phase two, your brain function slows down with short bursts of activity. It’s not until phases three and four that you enter your deepest sleep. The last phase of REM sleep is also when dreams occur before the cycle repeats itself and a new sleep cycle starts or you partially wake up. The end of your sleeping pattern is when you wake up without going back to sleep. This often happens closer to morning, but for some it happens in the middle of the night.
Back in the day, laboratory sleep studies were available to track sleep habits for improvement. Fortunately, new technology allows you to track and analyze your sleep in the comfort of your home. You can see how many phases of the sleep cycle you reach per night and look for patterns of sleep deprivation that require attention. This technology does the work for you while you’re sleeping, and provides you with consistent accuracy as well as insight to help you make impactful changes to your health through sleep.
Tracking Sleeping Patterns with Smart Technology
The Eight Sleep Pod allows you to track your sleep, adjust your bed’s temperature, and wake up naturally using temperature and vibration. Through the Eight Sleep app, you can view measurements of the sleep phases you go through, as well as your heart rate and respiratory rate, throughout the night.
Each morning you receive a personalized report with statistics about your sleep. This data provides insight into when you’re getting your best sleep and suggested changes to improve your sleep routine. (Consider it the sleep equivalent of a fitness trainer — very important, as sleep fitness is key to your overall health and fitness.)
A body temperature that’s too warm can cause restless sleep. It’s recommended to keep your bedroom dark, cool, and distraction-free to get the best rest. A smart bed like the Pod allows you to control and set your ideal bed temperature when you sleep. As it follows your sleeping pattern, it adjusts the temperature to maintain a certain level of coolness (or heat) that’s continually customized for your comfort.
The Eight Sleep Pod also has a thermo alarm which adjusts the bed’s surface temperature to gradually wake you up without an alarm. It works with your body’s natural circadian rhythm to help create a more regular sleep cycle rather than depending on a clock and a snooze button. It’s a more peaceful way to start your day rather than be jolted awake by a blaring alarm.
Ways to Improve Sleep Consistency
After you’ve determined the quality of sleep you’re getting, the next step is to improve the consistency of your sleep, the same way you would follow a diet or exercise routine. It’s better to show improvements on a regular basis rather than sleeping solidly for a few days and relapsing back to inconsistent norms.
There will be times when you may fall off track due to any number of lifestyle and environmental circumstances, but if you stick to a regular schedule, you’ll reach the consistency you need for better sleep health. Although it may seem easier to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends, those extra hours can make it more difficult for you to follow a pattern during the week.
A sleep routine involves going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. If you’re having trouble getting into a groove, try a few of these tips to regulate sleep-wake-time consistency:
- Set your optimal sleeping temperature. In addition to the benefits of using smart technology, this may also involve adjusting the thermostat or increasing the amount of ventilation in your room. If the room is too warm or too cold, it’ll disturb your sleep.
- Reduce the amount of light used before bed. Too much bright or blue light from electronic screens can signal your brain that it should remain active and awake. (In other words: Don’t scroll through that feed before getting your Z’s.) Also, skip the overhead light and opt for a bedside lamp in the evening.
- Schedule naps strategically. For many, a quick nap can help you power through the rest of the day. However, if taken too late in the afternoon, it can disrupt your regular sleep cycle. If you find yourself dozing off in the evening, it may be indicative of sleep deprivation. In that case, skip the nap in favor of optimizing your bedtime.
- Practice meditation. Transitioning from the on-the-go chaos of daily life to a more relaxed frame of mind to prepare for sleep can be a challenging adjustment to make. Meditation allows you to focus on the present moment and focus on calmness. Even a few minutes can make a big difference when it comes to creating a more consistent sleeping pattern.
- Assess what you’re eating and drinking before bed. Spicy or acidic foods eaten too late in the evening may keep you up at night or make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. Drinking alcohol also contributes to restless sleep. It may make you feel drowsy and relaxed, but it prevents you from entering the deepest sleep cycle.
The main thing to remember about improving sleep consistency is to take it at a gradual pace. Different methods work for different people. Don’t try to tackle everything at once or get frustrated if one way doesn’t work out for you. Finding a solution that fits your needs is what will work best for the long term.
Altering habits gradually eventually creates a comprehensive change to your sleeping pattern. Try to go to bed 15 minutes earlier to start with or wake up as soon as your alarm goes off without hitting snooze. Finding your normal sleeping pattern often takes trial and error. Once you’ve found your sweet spot, both your sleep and general health will improve.