Sometimes it can feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day. I mean, how are we expected to juggle an 8-hour workday, get to the gym, socialize, spend time with the family, clean the house, and do the school run? It’s impossible.
So I often get asked if I can train my body to need less sleep and still remain productive.
Cutting your hours of sleep shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it’s certainly not something that can happen over a short time. Doing so can result in your body and brain becoming overworked, feelings of exhaustion, and dispositions such as depression, stress, irritability, memory loss, and confusion.
Before deciding whether cutting down on sleep will be possible, you must first understand how much sleep we need as adults to function physically, which can vary from person to person.
What are the Recommended Hours of Sleep for Adults?
The amount of sleep you need depends on your age. For example, young babies need much more sleep than preschool children, and adults between 18 and 65 need more sleep than teenagers.
Most adults, in general, are recommended to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and factors such as lifestyle, working hours, and even genetics can be all factors into where your personal needs lie within these hours.
So, if you’re currently getting 9 hours of sleep per night, you can gradually reduce your hours of sleep without impacting your health while remaining productive.
The hours of sleep you get per night also depend on your sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm. To start working towards decreasing your sleep, you need to ensure that you have a consistent sleep cycle, going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning.
Training Your Body to Need Less Sleep
Setting your alarm for 6:00 am when you’re used to getting up at 8:00 am, is likely to set you up for failure from the get-go; either you will snooze your alarm, which is counterproductive and can lead to oversleeping or you could end up feeling fatigued later in the day.
Conversely, forcing yourself to sleep at 9:00 pm instead of 11:00 pm will only lead you to waste valuable time tossing, turning, and feeling frustrated.
You need to take your time with changing your hours of sleep and introduce it gradually to your routine.
Below are several ways in which you can try to train your body to need less sleep gradually and without impacting your productivity.
1. Consistent Sleep Schedule
A sleep schedule is something you put in place an hour or two leading up to bed that lets your brain know it’s time to wind down. For example, for some people, this could be reading a book, taking a warm bath, lighting candles that give off calming and relaxing scents, or practicing a skincare routine. A sleep schedule is detrimental to your sleep hygiene, and coming up with one that works well for you and that you know you can stick to is vital.
The most important thing about a sleep schedule is ensuring it can realistically remain consistent throughout the week and at the weekend. Going to bed early Sunday to Thursday and pulling an all-nighter on Friday and Saturday is disadvantageous. Find one that works for your lifestyle, and stick to it.
2. Sleep Environment
Your sleep environment must be calm, quiet, dark, and relaxing. Keep a window open to allow fresh air to circulate, and try to keep your room at an optimum temperature of around 60-70°F. Becoming too hot at night can lead to difficulties falling asleep and disrupt your sleeping pattern.
Also, clearing the room of any distractions, sounds, or electrical devices that might be a distraction can help you prepare for sleep.
3. Quit Hitting Snooze
Waking up to your alarm which has been set for an earlier time than you’re used to, can give you the temptation to hit that snooze button and roll over for another few moments of slumber. However, doing so can have adverse effects and leave you feeling even more groggy for the rest of the day.
To avoid this situation, I suggest setting your alarm 15 minutes to half an hour earlier for a week, then increasing it again the following week. Doing this gradually until you hit your desired sleep time is more likely to work for you in the long run.
4. Turn off Your Phone
It goes without saying that when you’re trying to get to sleep, staring at your phone before you attempt to nod off is never going to do you any favors. Try switching off all electronic devices about an hour before climbing into bed.
Blue light emitted from items such as laptops, phones, and tablets can decrease melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.
5. Avoid Stimulants
Substances such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine, and some medications can make falling and staying asleep challenging. For instance, while you might think that a couple of glasses of wine before bed will help you relax and drift off soundly to sleep, it can lead to sleep disruption, and you wake up multiple times during the night.
It will also mean that you’re not likely to wake up feeling rejuvenated the following morning, causing you to sleep in.
6. Create A Morning Routine
A morning routine is just as crucial as an evening one. Studies have shown that people who get up and do something worthwhile tend to feel more effective for the rest of the day.
Try to create a morning routine that you enjoy, something you want to get out of bed for, and that will make you feel productive.
Exercise helps with all kinds of sleep disorders, such as insomnia and hypersomnia. It can also drastically improve sleep quality. A good workout session in the morning will make you feel more productive for the rest of the day and mean that you’re ready for a good night’s sleep by the time the evening comes.
Suppose you’re struggling to train your body to need less and more than 8 hours of sleep regularly. In that case, you might suffer from an underlying health condition such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, thyroid irregularities, or even heart problems.
If the above sounds like you, the best option is to speak to a medical professional who can give you a physical and mental assessment to rule out anything more sinister. You may need to make minor adjustments to your lifestyle, be it diet, activity, or schedule.
Is it possible to train your body to need less sleep? Yes! It is possible to do this. However, you can only expect it to happen after a while before you see results. Make a plan that works for you, and gradually work towards it once you’ve found it; stay consistent.