Call for Help

Sleep

How much sleep should I get?

Aim for roughly eight hours of sleep each night. Research suggests that students who get at least seven to eight hours of sleep have higher GPAs than those who get six or less. Sleep lets your brain rest and sort through all of the information that bombards you daily. It allows you to rebuild cells, refill energy stores, and retain memory.

**If you are truly pressed for time, 4 sleep cycles (6 hours) is a good consolation. Shoot for 6.5 hours in practice.

More sleep isn’t necessarily better, because it might mean that you are waking up in the middle of the 90-minute sleep cycle. We recommend sleeping slightly longer than:

  • 7.5 hours (5 sleep cycles)
  • 9 hours (6 sleep cycles) – Even better!
  • 6 hours (4 sleep cycles) – If you are short on time.

More information in the “Sleep Cycles” video below!

Add a safety cushion of 30 minutes and voilà! You end up with 8 or 9.5 hours of sleep!

Sleep cycles

What are sleep cycles?

Humans naturally sleep in repeating 90-minute cycles during which the brain transitions from light sleep, to deep sleep, to REM sleep stages.

  • Light sleep occurs in two parts: the transition from awake to sleeping and then drifting into deep sleep.
  • Light sleep is when your brain activity slows and is an important process of transferring information from short to long-term memory. Research suggests that sleeping after studying or learning new material helps you retain information at a higher rate.
  • Deep sleep is crucially important for your physical health. It’s when the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. (WebMD).
  • REM sleep is when dreaming occurs and it is important for brain recovery as well as processing emotions and memories.
Sleep Cycles - FIND YOUR RHYTHM

Tired of feeling groggy in the morning? Well, your problem might not be a lack of sleep... You may just be interrupting your body’s natural rhythm: The sleep cycle!For more info and sleep resources: https://www.uhs.wisc.edu/medical/common-student-concerns/sleep/

Posted by University Health Services at UW-Madison on Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Track your sleep cycles

Aim to complete a certain number of 1.5 hour sleep cycles, for example, choose either four, five, or six full sleep cycles. The key here is to wake up after a cycle completes, or at the completion of a REM stage, but be careful: There is no catch-all number that works for everyone.

How to track your sleep cycles

  • Set your alarm with enough time to complete the largest number of complete sleep cycles that fit into your schedule.
    • Sometimes less is more, so if you missed the mark for ~7.5 hours, for example, ~6 hours is the next best option. Not somewhere in the middle.
  • Don’t forget to leave extra time to account for falling asleep.
    • For example, set your alarm for 8 hours in order to ensure you get a full 7.5 hours.
  • You can use an app that monitors your sleep stages, like the Sleep Cycle alarm clock app.
    • The app works by waking you up during a pre-set window of time once its audio and motion sensors sense that you’ve completed the final REM sleep stage.
  • If you don’t need an alarm , simply allow yourself to wake up naturally!

How to get a good night's sleep

  • Exercise daily, but not right before bed.
  • Keep your caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake in check. Nicotine is also a stimulant, so avoid consuming caffeine at least six hours before bed. This includes the tricky sources, like chocolate, tea, or even decaf coffee.
  • Unplug. Put the screens away before bedtime.
  • Establish a routine before bed that allows you to relax. Stretching and deep breathing are great segues to the sack — they improves blood flow and promotes relaxation.
  • Avoid eating right before bed.
  • Avoid pressuring yourself to sleep. Think of bedtime as a place of relaxation for the body and mind, whether you are asleep or not.
  • Set the mood and maintain a comfortable sleeping environment. Preferably dark, quiet, and at a cool temperature.