Winter time generally means more down time. We have a bit more time to rest, we tend to sleep longer and eat more. It’s ok to pack on a few pounds, as normally in winter a lot of people do. We move less than we’re used to, because our bodies don’t feel like moving.
It’s important to use this time in a smart way and sleep is easily one of the smartest ways to recover. If you’re struggling with sleeping or your sleeping habits are poor, don’t look any further!
We’ll explore how we can optimize our sleep, so that we can use this winter time to feel more refreshed, more energized and still stay productive.
Why do we need sleep?
In short, nobody really knows. We only know that after a while of not sleeping, we die.
Of course we all went through the night sessions of partying or studying, where we stayed awake for more than 24 hours (albeit not as productive as we probably thought, but still), but I’m talking about multiple days of no shut eye and being forced to stay awake.
That’s definitely not healthy, but what’s the science behind it?
Normally we assume that sleep is a time where the body completely shuts off in order to recover and rest.
That’s not entirely true. While it’s true that your body does indeed get rest while sleeping, your mind is active.
It’s processing all the information, thoughts and experiences you’ve had throughout the day.
Whether you had a bad meeting or went for a walk, your brain processes the information and systemizes it. That’s one of the reasons why we need sleep, but like I said it’s still unclear on whether this is the only reason and why.
Essentially if you’re brain and body don’t get time to process all these things, it tends to shut off and force you into sleep. That’s why you feel tired after having worked or moved the entire day.
Your focus comes to a low, productivity is not even an option at this stage and you seek shut eye.
If you’re driving (don’t be a sleep driver!) you tend to fall into drowsy driving.
Obviously if you worked out through the day your muscles adjust by growing and strengthening and depending on the skill level of the exercise or games you’ve played, your brain is also building pathways so that you can react better/faster when it comes to playing that specific game again.
That’s one of the reasons why after a while of not succeeding with a skill (let’s say juggling 4 balls), it makes click and you just have it.
Your body and brain are processing the movement patterns and you get better while sleeping.
I think Tim Ferriss even mentioned in the 4 Hour Chef that you can accelerate skill learning by frequently napping (see more below).
How much is needed?
Obviously one of the first questions I see and hear everywhere is “how much sleep do we REALLY need?” and again, nobody really knows.
Science tells us that the human body needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, probably depending on body type, job and season.
For example, I need more sleep during the winter because my body just craves it more. Early in the evening I get sleepy and I can go to bed at 9 or 10pm but still need to sleep until 6 or 7am to really feel rested. Whereas in summer I can easily stay up until 11pm or midnight and get up at 6am without a problem.
As you know, I’m a fan of experiments and I think this could be another experiment you should run for a while.
Test your sleeping patterns and adjust until you’re happy. Of course, there will be times where you’ll just break your sleeping habits, but still, if you’re focusing on making it work 80% of the time, you’re allowed to slack during the rest of the time.
There is also the fact the people used to break their sleep at night and had 2x four hours of sleep earlier (that was before the time of the light bulb). The theory is that we moved into one set of sleep at night, because of the artifical light around us.
Out of my own experience I do know that if I wake up at night (either planned or unplanned) I tend to fall into deep sleep pretty much after falling asleep.
That’s one of the reasons why you tend to feel groggy after quickly waking up at 4 or 5am, going to the bathroom and sleeping again. When the alarm rings at 6 or 7am in the morning, you feel like a train hit you.
That’s because we have different sleep phases and you were just in a deep sleep phase.
The different sleep phases
Sleep isn’t equal to sleep. What I mean by that is simply that your body falls into light and deep sleep during the night and depending on your phase your body goes through different stages.
Let’s have a look at the different phases:
Obviously if you never fall into the 3rd and 4th stage of sleep, you miss out on deep sleep.
Deep sleep means that your body is still, temperature is steady and there is no muscle activity at all. However, the last phase, the REM phase (Rapid Eye Movement) is where you dream, the body temperature is dynamic and you move around.
The REM phase was discovered pretty late (around the 1950s), yet is pretty important in our recovery and how we deal with our experiences throughout the day.
That’s why when you experience certain things, your dreams can reflect those thoughts and ideas in different ways.
Typically we go through 3-5 phases of REM sleep every night.
Every entire phase lasts around 90 minutes, which means that you’d hit around 5.3 entire cycles for 8 hours of sleep.
Personally, the more deep sleep I get the better I feel at night (tracked it with different sleep devices).
Where does napping play into this?
As you already know, I’m a fan of napping and I think in order to be productive and energized throughout the day, a nap can be immensely helpful.
But is a nap really needed when you sleep 8 hours of sleep every night?
Again, science is a bit shaky here, but there are some interesting studies, that show that napping can actually increase alertness:
Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.
So if you’re after an increase of productivity, napping should definitely be on your map.
I like to nap just after the lunch break, which gives me a perfect time to digest and start the afternoon with full energy.
Alternatively, if you get up early in the morning, because of your morning routine, you can also nap quickly during the morning.
How to have the perfect sleep every night
In order for you to feel fully rested and ready to crush the day, you need to sleep good. I’ve compiled a bunch of items that I use every night, in order to perfect my sleep. You can find more of these tips in the PDF that I prepared.
Here it goes:
- have an evening routine
- no displays at least one hour before sleep
- read fiction before going to sleep
- drink a calming tea
- take a bath
- use a liquid magnesium to feel more rested
- have a good mattress
- the sleeping room shouldn’t be too cold, nor too warm (18-20 degrees C)
These are some of the tips that I recommend people, I’d love to hear yours as well! There are of course a lot more, but that would increase the scope of this article way too much.
Sleep is an important topic, both for energy/productivity and recovery from movement or activities. It’s essential to our body, yet we don’t really know why we need it. That is one of the reasons why some people simply neglect it. In the long run, however, you can’t cheat sleep and you shouldn’t. Use some of the tips mentioned above to perfect your sleep and see how it increases the quality of your life.
Need more info?
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