Interactive bed time calculator
Have you ever woken up and felt like you still need a few hours’ sleep? Do you struggle to wake up to your alarm in the morning? If this sounds like you then it might not be the amount of sleep that’s the problem but the quality of the sleep you’re getting. Try our great sleep calculator below to see just what time you should be going to bed – sometimes half an hour less sleep is better!
How does the sleep calculator work?
The sleep calculator works by estimating your sleep cycle duration and aims to wake you up at the optimal time, avoiding the awful feeling of having to drag yourself out of a deep sleep.
What are sleep cycles?
While sleeping you go through various stages that alternate in a continuous cycle typically lasting around 90 minutes. Throughout these cycles you experience various types of sleep, explained below thanks to the experts at Helpguide.org:
Non-REM (NREM) sleep consists of four stages of sleep, each deeper than the last.
- Stage N1 (Transition to sleep) – This stage lasts about five minutes. Your eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily awakened.
- Stage N2 (Light sleep) – This is the first stage of true sleep, lasting from 10 to 25 minutes. Your eye movement stops, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases.
- Stage N3 (Deep sleep) – You’re difficult to awaken, and if you are awakened, you do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes. In this deepest stage of sleep, your brain waves are extremely slow. Blood flow is directed away from your brain and towards your muscles, restoring physical energy.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is when you do the most active dreaming. Your eyes actually move back and forth during this stage, which is why it is called Rapid Eye Movement sleep.
- REM sleep (Dream sleep) – About 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep, you enter REM sleep, where dreaming occurs. Your eyes move rapidly, your breathing becomes shallow, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase. During this stage your arm and leg muscles are paralyzed to prevent you acting out your dreams.
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Having trouble waking up?
Sometimes even though you have had a decent night’s sleep it can be hard getting up, which often leaves you feeling like you’re dragging yourself out of bed and struggling to wake up to your alarm. If this is the case it’s most likely that you’re trying to wake up in the N3 or N2 stages of sleep. This means that waking up half an hour earlier could have actually been better, giving you an easier morning. As a basic rule you should try to wake up on a multiple of 90 (the length of the average sleep cycle) meaning you wake up while you’re in the N1 or REM stage of sleep.
Common causes of sleep problems
Stress, whether it be from work, financial troubles or other more personal worries, is one of the most common causes of sleep problems. Stress not only stops you getting off to sleep at night but can disturb your normal sleep routines leaving you waking up in the middle of the night and is a common cause of nightmares.
Electrical devices and other stimuli
It is commonly believed that to help you sleep your bedroom should be used solely for sleeping. Electrical devices can hinder sleep in a few different ways:
- Firstly, even small flashing lights can be distracting in the dark and as you are drifting into a light sleep these can often wake you. These types of lights are common with TV & DVD player standby lights, and most of the time you will be unsure why you have awoken.
- Secondly electrical devices on standby can often have low volume static, humming or buzzing sounds. Sometimes you can’t actually hear this clearly yourself but when it’s on the edge of your hearing your brain will naturally try to listen which can affect the natural calm before sleep.
- Finally using electrical devices before bed such as a TV, phone and computer can make your brain ‘wired’ which is counter-productive when you’re wanting to fall asleep. The common glow of many of these devices also doesn’t help as bright light before sleep can fool your brain and interrupt your internal clock.
Caffeine and sugar
This might seem an obvious one but ingesting too much caffeine or sugar in the four hours running up to trying to go to sleep can have a serious negative effect on sleep. Caffeine and other stimulants are designed to give you energy but are not a good substitute for real sleep. Before bed you should try and cut down on your general food intake and avoid anything that’s going to give you lots of energy.
Light pollution occurs mainly in the early spring months and can seriously disturb your natural sleep routine. Earlier sun rises can fool your internal clock into thinking it’s time to wake up as you’re used to waking up in darkness through the winter months. The most common cause of light pollution is by not having sufficient window coverings – it is suggested you have a pair of thick curtains or blackout blinds to keep light out. Light pollution is especially a problem when trying to sleep in rooms with windows that look out east.
To conclude, sleep is a vital part of our everyday physical and mental wellbeing and although there are plenty of temporary solutions to tiredness, none come close to the benefits of a good night’s sleep. You need to try and get into a regular sleep routine of going to bed and waking up at similar times and also try and get at least six and a half hours rest each night. By getting a regular quality night’s sleep you will soon feel the benefits to your health, concentration and overall mental performance.