After enjoying stable routine for 4 long years, I am back to a life where it’s very hard to have a fixed schedule. Everyday is different and I have no idea when I would be sleeping or waking up. Irregular sleep timings and absence of schedule means high probability of waking up feeling tired. And then it’s more difficult to start your day on a high when you don’t feel like waking up, or if you are feeling more tired than when you went to sleep!
That’s when I started looking at the sleep cycles and realized it was a grave mistake to have my alarm clock set to the same time everyday! If you want to wake up feeling fresh, then you have to calculate and set the wake up time! And thankfully the calculation is very easy!
Typically a human brain goes through 5-6 sleep cycles before waking up and it’s better to wake up between the two sleep cycles than in the middle of a sleep cycle. Whenever you’re planning to go to sleep, allow 15 min of buffer time for your brain to enter the sleep cycle and then add the number of sleep cycles you can afford to have, multiplied by 90 minutes.
For example, if you decide to switch lights off at 11.50 pm and you have to wake up around 8 am, then don’t set the alarm for 8 am. Add 15 mins to 11.50 pm => 12.05 am. If you allow yourself 4 sleep cycles, (360 mins), you will have to set alarm for 6.05 am to wake up between your 4th and 5th sleep cycle. But wait, that means you can afford one more sleep cycle. You can wake up at 7.35 am.
This means it would be better if you wake up half an hour earlier than you had previously planned, so as to feel fresh after waking up, rather than allowing yourself more time to enter into next sleep cycle.
Whenever you wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle, you are bound to feel confused and tired.
Even if you are planning short sleep/nap, plan it in multiples of 90*x + 15 minutes!
You can also use Sleepy time calculator to calculate the wake up time. They even have android app!