Are you a night owl or an early bird? Personally, I don’t think I am either. However, research shows that a preference for being an early riser or a late sleeper is influenced by genetics.
A study conducted at the University of California at San Francisco by Dr. Ying-Hui Fu and her team revealed a rare mutation in the gene DEC2 of a mother and daughter who needed only an average of 6.5 hours of sleep per night due to more intense REM sleep states. People with this mutation (also called “short-sleepers”) appear to sleep more efficiently.
Think you are one of the lucky few? The odds are stacked against you. Less than 3% of the population is said to carry this mutation. For the other 97% of us, how do we find out how much sleep we need? In seventh grade math class, I remember learning a formula for calculating how many hours of sleep we need at night based on our age throughout childhood. Once we hit the age of 18, our sleep needs pretty much stay the same (between 7.5 to 9 hours) assuming the absence of certain medical conditions.
After feeling sleep deprived for close to two years, I took a long-needed sleep vacation! I didn’t have to go anywhere other than my bed; I just had to prioritize this little but necessary experiment, and I was on my way to feeling better than I have in years. Here’s what you need to do.
- Carve out two weeks where you have some flexibility to go to bed at the same time every night & wake up without an alarm clock
- Don’t worry… for the first couple of days you will sleep longer if you have been sleep deprived – your body’s way of paying off your “sleep debt”
- Continue going to be at a consistent time and waking up naturally. Within two weeks, you will establish a sleep pattern and obtaining the same amount of sleep each night
Nine hours ended up being my magic number. No wonder I had felt sleep deprived! I was getting between 6 and 7 hours of sleep every night for the past several years.
Need other tips for getting a good night’s sleep? Make sure you are sleeping on a comfortable mattress and pillow, and limit television watching and computer use in the few hours before bedtime. Try to exercise in the earlier part of the day and steer clear of late-night caffeine and alcohol intake.
Schedule your sleep vacation and follow this simple formula. You’ll be sleeping like a rockstar before you know it.