I am definitely not a morning person, I am a complete grump, who can barely function enough to grunt good morning to my boyfriend. For me, the alarm clock is my nemesis, the very sound stresses me. I have even gotten as far as sitting up in bed holding my alarm to turn it off before I have gained consciousness – I tell you that is such a strange feeling.
The Stages of Sleep
Here’s a fact for you, there are 4 recognized stages of sleep. They can be sub-divided even further, with the first 3 stages being non-REM sleep and the last and most important being REM sleep (rapid eye movement). REM sleep is really important, it’s when our brain gets to ‘sort itself out’ from the day’s activities and return ready for your next. Our bodies divert so much energy to this that in REM sleep we are paralyzed, our muscles do not work. It’s strange to think, and even stranger that you will never be conscious of it!
The Sleep Jolt
Have you experienced this? WOW it’s scary sometimes. You’re sinking into a nice little sleep, then suddenly you dream you’re falling off a cliff and your whole body jolts you into consciousness. What happened?
This is when your body sinks quickly into sleep, your respiration/breathing rate drops too quickly, your body therefore thinks you might be dying and jolts you into consciousness. Our minds are so amazing that you also get the dream part to make sense of the movement.
How does your Body Know When to Sleep?
Cleverly your body releases different chemicals/hormones when your body is exposed to light and when it is exposed to darkness. In the evening as the light fades, your body releases more and more Melatonin which makes you feel sleepy. The same happens as it gets lighter in the morning, your body releases Cortisol which awakens you.
The Psychology of the Alarm Sound
I literally wince a little every time I hear ‘beep beep, beep beep’. I had the same alarm sound for too many years and now I have conditioned myself to associate the strained process of being awakened with this sound.
This is a similar concept to ‘Pavlov’s dogs’ which is a well-known psychology study, it showed that when dogs were pre-conditioned with the sound of a bell, then brought food, gradually they associated bell=food, until it was so ingrained in them bell was food!
Changing your alarm sound every couple of weeks, or using more natural sounds which are varied will help to stop you associating sounds with being rudely awakened until the sound alone makes you grumpy!
So I have had 2 hero’s actually, the first was an app on my phone called ‘Sleep as Android’, you set a ‘smart period’ within which the alarm can wake you up. If you want to get up at 7, then setting a 30 minute smart period means it could wake you up from 6.30.
The phone goes under your pillow and it tracks your movements all night. The app will monitor your sleep cycles (those 4 stages I mentioned before) and wake you up when you are in the lightest sleep. It’s also really fascinating to see your sleep cycles through the night, the app gives you a little graph each night of your movements. You can use it to tell when your body naturally sleeps the deepest, how long it took you to fall asleep and the % of REM sleep your body needs.
My second hero was a lovely Christmas present from my boyfriend mum, it’s a ‘light’ alarm (the one I have is the ‘Philips wake-up light alarm clock – HF3500/01’). This uses light instead of sound to waken you, the science behind this is it gets your body releasing those chemicals that trigger you to awaken and therefore your body thinks it’s time to wake-up. If your body is ‘ready’ to wake up, then you don’t get that groggy feeling.
Love sleep. Hate waking up. These tricks make it a bearable process, ones I am sure my boyfriend is very thankful for! What are your tricks to a good night’s sleep?