Part of the OKJ 21 Early Days Challenge
After 21 days of a truly enlightening sleep challenge, this is my third and final article for those curious about sleep or wanting to improve it.
But, first here is a round up of my third week of sleep. (Click here for a detailed view of all 21 days!)
Crunching in the numbers
Here's what I learned after crunching in the numbers.
On average, I had only slept 5 hours 42 minutes per week day. That was less than the 6 hours as advertised. Yet, I still felt great.
Changing my sleep pattern during the weekend was not recommended when changing and maintaining a sleep habit, but given my lifestyle, I did so anyway. And still, the data provided by my Jawbone UP24 supports the fact that I am not sleep deprived.
My ratio between (Light Sleep) and (Sound Sleep) was 2 hours 44 minutes and 2 hours 58 minutes respectively.
To put that in perspective, 52.13% of my sleep was Sound Sleep on an average week day. Now, Sound Sleep can still be broken down further to two stages, Delta sleep and REM sleep. As the Jawbone UP24 considers Sound Sleep as sleep without much movement, it was not able to distinguish between Delta and REM sleep.
Update: The new UP3 features the ability to distinguish between Delta and REM sleep with the capability of tracking our heart rate.
Further evidence that I was not sleep deprived from my "extreme" weekday sleep routine was the hours I slept during the weekends, which on average clocked in at 7 hours 43 minutes.
This is well within the range of the recommended duration of sleep. It's noteworthy that all of my weekend sleep ended with natural awakenings. (No alarm clocks except for the final day as I am busy writing this article as well as my biggest article of the year!)
Reflecting over the past 21 days, I never felt the need to ask the baffling question, "Why am I still sleepy after sleeping so long?"
Through the challenge, I was alert more of the time for less of the sleep. Do you believe that you are not getting enough sleep to survive the work week? It's time to change that - and it all revolves around one thing - your Circadian Rhythm.
1. Understand Your Circadian Rhythm
Circadian rhythm is our body's natural sleep-wake cycle, and one very important fact to the statement - "Sleep quality trumps quantity".
If you had been reading this series since Day 1, you would remember that this challenge's aim was to strive for a sustainable sleeping habit that allows us to get more out of our every day lives.
The question was simple - "How do I feel more well-rested despite sleeping less?"
Research has shown that even if we sleep for the same number of hours, sleeping within our circadian rhythm results in a better rest compared to sleeping outside of it.
Circadian rhythm changes based on our environment and are affected by external cues known as zeitgebers. Some examples include sunlight, temperature, the food and drinks we consume, etc.
Now that we understand circadian rhythm and it's fundamental importance to our sleep quality, it is time for you to do what I had done throughout this challenge.
And that is to...
2. Respect Your Circadian Rhythm
We all have friends that seemingly need no amount of sleep. Maybe that's because they are genetically able to rely on lesser amounts of sleep to optimally "recharge".
As we are all unique, to ensure quality sleep we have to start with simple questions such as how much we need to get.
Firstly, find out how much sleep you need to get, then respect it, do not attempt to change it. Trying to drastically change it will result in your current sleeping problem - the problem of never having enough.
On average, we need seven to eight hours of sleep. Throughout my 21 day challenge, I figured out that I need six hours on an average day, and around six and a half to seven hours on days which are more demanding both physically and mentally.
But simply just deciding that you will sleep when "it is time for you to sleep" is not enough.
By not acting on their circadian rhythm, many people became demoralised by the lack of impact to their sleep quality despite their "efforts", and blame other factors such as work-life balance and other seemingly uncontrollable factors of life as the reason for their lack of well-being. (This challenge also aimed to smash that limiting mindset.)
So after understanding and respecting your circadian rhythm, the final and most important step is to...
3. Act On Your Circadian Rhythm
This 21 Early Days challenge is in many ways my attempt to act on and solidify a sleeping habit that respects my circadian rhythm.
As mentioned earlier, our circadian rhythm is affected by zeitgebers which is basically all around us.
Find that correct mindset then act on changing your activities before and after that intended period of sleep. There are some seemingly trivial matters that actually plays a big part in affecting your sleep and others that are implied to have effects on our sleep quality but ultimately do not.
Does: Natural and Artificial Lights
Light is one of the most, if not the most, impactful zeitgeber that affects our biological clock. But it is not just sunlight. Other forms of light, such as those on your phone and computer, all impacting sleep quality.
Researchers playing the blame game had pointed their fingers to blue light as blue wavelengths increase the secretion of melatonin - a hormone that increases our attention, reaction times, and affects our mood, thus influencing circadian rhythms.
You may be thinking, "I do not have blue light in my house, how does this affect me?" Wrong. Blue light is everywhere.
Take your smartphone for instance - Chances are your smartphone uses an LED screen. Despite blasting a bright white light, the nature of LED screens means that the white on your screen is actually a mixture of intense red, green, and yes, blue light. (Note: If you really still want to use your smartphone or tablet, use it correctly, here's a guide.)
The same goes for your television as well and your brand new energy-efficient light bulbs. Compared to the traditional fluorescent light bulb that burns in the iconic shade of yellow, new energy-efficient light bulbs are usually made of LED and are bright white.
This is not to say that you should stop in your energy-saving pursuits.
While you are at it, try not to block your windows when tucking in for the night. Let that sunrise wake you up. Shielding one's self from the Sun are for sleep-deprived people. By following through on your journey to improve your sleeping habit, you will eventually welcome that glorious sunrise. Heck, take a photo and upload it to Instagram while you are at it.
Does not: Exercise
The question on how exercise affects our sleep is still a hot topic despite research showing a clear united stance - exercise does not affect sleep quality.
A study conducted by the European Sleep Research Society in 2011 had compared the sleep quality of participants who slept after 35 minutes of exercise and participants with no exercise. The observations concluded that vigorous late-night exercise does not disturb sleep quality, thus even less reasons why you should start working out!
Does not: Age
As we get older, we will still need to get about the same amount of sleep. Age as a factor in our sleep requirements is another popular factor to discuss, yet like the verdict on exercise, research had shown that while age affects our sleep duration, it does not affect our sleep quality.
In fact, a study by the Harvard Medical School on circadian rhythms have found that the range for normal, healthy adults of all ages to be about 24 hours and 11 minutes with a deviation of 16 minutes.
This deviation resets itself daily to the 24 hour cycle of the Earth's rotation.
At the end of it all, mindset is key to improving one of the most fundamental functions of our lives.
Haven't had enough sleep? Tired of chasing for it or fighting against it? Through the 21 days, I have had a complete transformation of my sleeping habit.
From a Night Owl to an Early Bird; from a person that complained eight hours was not enough to feeling great after having only six hours; I had achieved my aim - getting more out of my day (the proper way).
Well that's it for my 21 Early Days Challenge. Be sure to check out my article on how to get the most out of your in 2015 coming on 7th December!
I am not on twitter often, but if you DM me, I WILL RESPONSE. So let me know if you have any questions about my 21 Early Days experience, what I have learned, or just to chat! DM me at @okjdiscoveries.