How much sleep do you need?
- Infants generally require 15 hours of sleep a day
- 5 to 6 hours of sleep is ideal for those over 60
- 6 to 8 hours is what everyone else needs
There is a right and a wrong way to wake up, and it has a lot to do with how you rouse your sleeping body and brain. Two things to keep in mind are the body’s circadian rhythm (which contributes to quality of sleep) and the estimated REM cycles (which contributes to how refreshed you feel when you wake up).
Our circadian rhythms are affected by food, exercise, and ambient light and sound — especially in the last few hours of the day before sleep.
REM sleep refers to the deepest form of sleep, characterised by rapid eye movements. The REM stage is followed by a non-REM stage and this cycle repeats until you wake up.
Top tips from a sleep therapist
- Avoid screens for at least two hours before bed. Aside from the mental stimulation of moving and scrolling feeds, the blue backlight of most screens suppresses the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin and makes it even harder to sleep deeply.
- Sleep with a curtain open, to let in the sunlight. Sunlight triggers cortisol and helps wake you up more naturally and less abruptly.
- Follow the normal circadian rhythm. Studies have found that those who eat, exercise, and sleep at the right times of day, in keeping with this natural rhythm, tend to have better immunity and greater concentration — in addition to better energy levels resulting partly from a better quality of sleep.
“When we first fall asleep, we are in the non-REM stage for 45 to 60 minutes. The REM stage comes after that and lasts for about 90 minutes,” says Dr Vivek Nangia, pulmonologist and sleep disorder expert at Fortis Vasant Kunj.
Waking up during non-REM, light sleep phases is easier and allows you to start the day more energised. So, even if it means cutting half an hour of sleep, try and set your alarm for an estimated non-REM period. As with most things, there are apps to help you do this.
Sleep Cycle tracks your sleep patterns using motion detection sensors, and wakes you up during phases of light sleep. It allows you to set a 30-minute timeframe within which it can determine the best time for the alarm to go off. In order for it to work, though, the phone must be kept on the bed all night, with motion detection enabled.
“Even this is just a rough estimate,” says Dr Nangia. “Because movement isn’t an indicator of the sleep phase. Unless you monitor brain activity, you can’t really know when a person is in the REM phase.”
AMdroid’s Smart Alarm Clock works best when used in conjunction with a health tracker like a Fitbit or Apple Watch. Depending on when you wake up, the app notifies you about an ideal bedtime. Once you enable sleep mode on the app, sleep calculations start and it tracks sleeping patterns. Based on this data, it chooses from within a time frame you have provided and wakes you up gradually, during an estimated light-sleep stage.
Solar Clock: Circadian Rhythm is an app that helps you align your meal and sleep times with the circadian rhythm, or the internal biological clock that regulates our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. The app suggests ideal timeframes for meals, snacks, exercise, and indicates most productive work hours. In turn, it suggests healthy sleep timings and makes recommendations based on estimated sleep cycles, on when you should wake up so as to feel energised and productive the following day.