How sleep science can help you

With the help of science, our modern-day obsession with perfecting lifestyles has extended its reach to getting the best out of the time we spend sleeping. Companies are responding with consumer solutions, from wearables to hi-tech bedding, and all are targeted to help us improve our quality of sleep. 

There are now so many products available to help you sleep better that it’s hard to avoid taking an interest in learning how to sleep better. The choice is there for people to ignore or simply learn how to sleep better, and so here are some of the things that you should know about the science behind a good night’s sleep and which new sleep technology products are worth your investment. 

Americans are terrible at getting enough sleep, and it’s costing the economy as a whole, and lives on an individual basis. Inadequate sleep, which can be defined by duration or depth/quality, has many health risks from lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and obesity, to reduced ability to maintain emotional equilibrium and manage stress. You’re less able to solve problems, learn, adapt and make good choices on inadequate sleep, and the chances are you’re so used to operating this way that you don’t even realize what you’re missing.

You need a lot of sleep. The official recommendation has been upgraded from eight hours to 8.5. This is in recognition of the amount of time that people are actually asleep. To get a full eight hours of proper sleep, you should aim to be in bed for a little longer. If you’re slow to fall asleep or like to read in bed, then extend the projections accordingly.

You don’t have to get it all at once. If you can’t imagine clocking 8.5 hours at night, or tend to wake during the night, then not to worry – you need eight solid hours of cumulative sleep per day. Add a midafternoon nap to the mix if you need to raise your rates. However, you can try changing the sleep environment and lifestyle changes such as increased exercise to boost your ability to sleep if naps aren’t a good fit.

It’s not all about the REM cycle. REM sleep helps you process ideas, experiences and memories – basically the raw data of the day. This is necessary, but far from the only benefit of sleep. Deep sleep helps you process everything else, doing the biological work of cleaning and hitting reset for another day, and you need a mix of both REM and deep sleep in adequate quantities every day to maintain health.

It doesn’t have to wake you to be a disturbance. Researchers note that some sleepers can drop back into sleep after loud noises or bright lights but that surprisingly mild noises such as an air system turning on can cause unconscious disruptions, so even if you’re not lying awake listening to your partner snore, you may be experiencing suboptimal sleep. White noise machines and over-ear or in-ear headphones with a noise-canceling or white noise feature are good solutions.

In addition to quiet, dark and cool are the top priorities for the bedroom. Blackout curtains or blinds or an eye mask are good ways to deal with light, while a change in bedding, mattress or mechanical temperature regulation can help with thermal comfort and reaching the right level of coolness during sleep.

Use these new and established sleep science findings to optimize your own sleep and reach new heights of health and productivity. Aim for more than eight hours of sleep a day, cumulatively, and eliminate disturbances in the bedroom for best results.