What’s fascinating about the human condition is that we are inextricably linked to the cycles of our planet.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with the circadian rhythms of our body, which follow a 24-hour cycle and entail an internal circadian clock that regulates our behavior.
This cycle is in alignment with the 24-hour day, which is a function of the earth spinning on its axis. The changes we experience on a micro level are thus dependent upon the earth’s relation to the sun.
Thus, when the sun disappears temporarily from the horizon, and darkness descends, our bodies know to enter sleep mode – in which a particular array of reactions take place. These reactions prepare us for the imminent return of the sun’s nourishing light the following day.
How Long is a Sleep Cycle?
In particular, most people experience 5 sleep cycles throughout the night of around 90 minutes each.
Within each cycle, people experience both REM sleep and Non-REM sleep, which is distinguished by the frequency of brain waves and eye movement. Both stages of sleep are critical for cleansing and rejuvenating our bodies. Even further, these cycles build off each other throughout the night.
Initially, try going to bed as early as possible and then setting your alarm for as late as possible.
This will give you sufficient time to wake up by your body’s internal clock. Eventually, you will figure out the ideal time to go to bed and wake up, and this sleep cycle calculator will serve you indefinitely.
In the rest of this article, we will discuss 4 more tips for maximizing your sleep cycle to ensure an optimally functioning body.
Don’t Use an Alarm Clock
Our body has a natural alarm clock which is more finetuned for our health than store-bought varieties. It will tell us when we need to wake and sleep.
Abiding by the arbitrary limits of when we must wake for work, or take care of our children, for example, will disturb our natural circadian clock and interfere with the various stages of sleep.
Don’t Use Blinds
Blinds will allow you to ignore the natural cycles of the sun, which are important for regulating melatonin production, which is a hormone that regulates our circadian rhythms.
Once it starts getting dark, you should already be getting tired, and once the sun comes up, its best to start your morning routine. When you keep blinds off your window, you will prevent yourself from sleeping in well into the day and disturbing your circadian rhythm.
Engage in Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting is really just a fancy word for eating within a narrow range of hours each day. This usually means spending most of the night and morning not eating, which is ideal to support the body’s natural cycles.
During your sleeptime, the body is engaging in a massive project of integrating what occurred during the day, and part of this means getting rid of old, unnecessary cellular structures in a process called autophagy.
By overwhelming your digestive system during the night, you put an extra burden on your body and make these efforts less efficient.
Meditate Before Bed
Due to the hectic nature of our days, many of us carry our anxieties into the night. Thus, by the time we go to bed, we are still often reflecting and problem-solving. Our mind can become disconnected from the wisdom of our bodies, which is perhaps desirable during the day in order to be creative.
But, at night, we want to realign our mind with our body, and this means slowing down our thoughts, breathing, and prepping for the internal journey of dreaming and sleeping.
Try lighting some incense, playing some low-volume, ambient music, and focusing on your breathing for 30 minutes before you go to bed.
This will help disconnect you from the day, which is crucial for allowing our sleep cycles to run their course. Sleeping requires harnessing all of the body’s energy, which is difficult if some of this energy is still being used for excessive ideation and worrying.
Our Final Thoughts on How to Maximize Your Sleep Cycles
We think one of the biggest problems with modern theories of sleeping is that they overemphasize quantity of sleep over quality.
It’s most important that you experience all parts of your sleep cycle, ranging from light sleep to slow-wave deep sleep all the way to REM dream sleep.
If you follow some of the tips provided here, you will be able to better access your bodies circadian rhythm. You will wake up feeling more refreshed and energized.
Feature image via The Chopra Center