There's nothing more frustrating than a bad night's sleep. The next day is always spent caffeine filled and irritable. But it could be worse, you could be sat next to a morning person. Bright and breezy, without a dark circle in sight, they're worryingly chipper for 9 am - what's their secret?
What you're encountering here is a highly effective sleeper; a rare breed of the Millennial Generation, with super-concentration powers and a knack of getting everything done with time to spare.
If you've dreams, albeit brief, of clocking up the enviable 7-9 hours sleep; practice these 8 habits of highly effective sleepers.
According to NHS choices, in the UK alone, "one in five people feels unusually tired." More often than not, this isn't attributed to a physical ailment; it tends to be an accumulation of little stresses that leave them mentally exhausted or tossing and turning at night.
Think about it, how many people do you hear complaining of tiredness day-to-day? A lot. But more to the point, how many of these people are actually doing something about it? What separates highly effective sleepers from the fatigued is their approach to sleeping.
Not all of us are lucky enough to fall soundly asleep as soon as our head hits the pillow and wake up refreshed. It takes commitment, routine and the practice of good sleep hygiene. You need to address your lifestyle choices before declaring yourself as an insomniac for life. Invest in a supportive mattress, clear your bedroom of distraction and go to bed at a reasonable hour; be proactive.
They maintain an effective circadian rhythm
Effective sleepers master their circadian rhythm - they know what sleep they need and do all they can to get it. The optimum amount of sleep for adults aged 18-64 is 7-9 hours, says The National Sleep Foundation. But the time you choose to go to bed is up to you.
According to sleep expert Michael Breus, the average sleep cycle for any individual is around 90 minutes, and we require around 5 of these 90 minute cycles each night. When calculated, this amounts to 7.5 hours per night.
To work out what time you should go to sleep, choose your ideal wake-up time and work backwards 7.5 hours. From this point onwards, even at the weekends, aim to stick to these specific wake-up and sleep times, as this helps establish an effective circadian rhythm (your internal clock).
Consistent sleep is key to avoiding daytime tiredness. It promotes a healthy hormone balance, increases energy levels and allows time for recovery. It's hard a habit to pick up, but you'll notice dramatic improvements by adopting a regular sleep pattern.
They DON'T use smartphones before bedtime
This is a bad habit that many poor sleepers can admit to doing - incessant scrolling. You’re bored, it's late, you want to see what your friends are up to and 'catch up with the world' before setting your alarm. Big mistake. Like sleeping in front of the TV, the artificial blue light that emanates from your phone is damaging your sleep/wake patterns.
It tricks the brain into thinking that it's morning, and interferes with melatonin production as a result. But melatonin does more than help us fall asleep - without it, you're more vulnerable to disease and symptoms of depression. Switch off all technology well before heading to bed and keep your phone on the other side of the room as you sleep - no more Facebook at 2am!
They eat the right things
How you fuel your day is critical to determining how well you'll sleep. By grazing on sugar-filled chocolate bars throughout the day (that spike insulin levels and leave you sleepy when you shouldn't be) you promote inconsistency and find yourself more inclined to nap, which leads to disrupted sleep. Likewise, guzzle coffee after coffee 9-5, and you won't be able to switch off come bedtime. Where possible, steer clear of high-fat and sugar-rich foods - they aren't sleep inducing. Same goes for alcohol, spicy dishes and caffeine; if you're struggling to sleep, know your limits.
Instead stock your kitchen with sleep-friendly foods. The tryptophan content of wholegrain carbs and foods such as turkey and cottage cheese, help curb late-night hunger pangs by stimulating the creation of serotonin/melatonin, which regulate your sleep/wake patterns. Try snacking on a small portion of bread or crackers an hour before you sleep. Camomile tea, honey, almonds and kiwi fruit are also said to do the trick.
They're avid readers
Highly effective sleepers love to read. They switch off all electrical devices 1-2 hours before hopping into bed and curl up with a good book. The wind down process before trying to sleep is very important to achieving a good night's rest. It tells the body that all activity has stopped, and you're ready to relax.
Reading does just that. Rather than stimulating the mind, you immerse yourself in worlds far away from your own; removing any worries and enabling you to de-stress. A report from The Telegraph claims that 'it only takes 6 minutes reading time to reduce the heart rate/tension in muscles,' which in turn, helps you to relax. Time to hit the library.
They appreciate the sunshine
Locking yourself away for 8 hours a day in a lightless office can also impact your quality of sleep. By not getting a sufficient amount of sunlight, you confuse your body clock and disrupt your natural sleep/wake patterns.
A study presented at the 27th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, revealed the need for sunlight to its true extent. When comparing the sun-seeking habits of 49 different day-shift workers; 27 in windowless workplaces and 22 in workplaces with windows, they found that the employees who were exposed to natural light more often did in fact, have a better night's sleep and "slept an average of 46 minutes more per night," says Forbes.
What's more, workers with windows also proved to be more active in the daytime, which also contributes to good quality sleep. Don't eat your lunch at your desk and embrace a little sunshine, for the sake of your sleep.
They're pretty spiritual
And breeeathe. If you're struggling to drift off, find your inner Zen and start to meditate. A study led by Havard Medical Health agrees that by focusing on “moment-by-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions” through mindful meditation, you approach day-to-day challenges more pragmatically/with a clear head. This in turn, takes the pressure off and enables you to sleep stress free for the recommended 7-9 hours.
Even simple breathing techniques can help you relax. Health expert and best-selling author, Dr Weil advocates the '4-7-8 breathing technique;' in which you inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7, then exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat this process 3 times to achieve sleep-worthy calmness.
They seek medical help
If you're still having difficulty sleeping, seek medical help. In the US alone, it's estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnoea, many of which remain undiagnosed. If you suffer from persistent headaches, restless sleep, a lack of energy or are known to snore, speak to a medical expert to see if they can shed light on the issue.