Sunday, September 30, 2012

Improved Sleeping – Getting Started

I've mentioned on a few occasions that I’d like to be a better sleeper. Most of us can tell that our performance is better when we are well rested. If I work out on a Friday afternoon, it’s probably not as good as the same workout would be on a Monday morning.

In order to know where I need improvement, I needed to know how bad a sleeper I really am. To me, the best way to learn about this was with a Zeo Personal Sleep Manager. This is an alarm clock, but not any ordinary one. With its wireless headband, it actually measures and records your brainwaves during sleep to determine what kind of sleep you got and how much.

If you want the really fine details, you should read this post on DC Rainmaker. You should read his blog any way, but this is specific to the Zeo.

Got all that? Good.

Zeo is more than just a system to measure your sleep. Included with the purchase of the machine is a sleep coaching program that evaluates your data and, along with your answers to some questions, recommends a plan that will help with overall improvement.

My first steps, involved just understanding what a typical night looked like for me. Here are the results from my first night with the machine:

As you can see, there are two elements to restorative sleep: Deep and REM.

As most people know, REM or rapid eye movement is generally the state in which dreams occur. It is also the period of mental restorative sleep. Deep sleep is the period for physical restorative sleep.

Research available through the Zeo website indicates that adults will experience between 30 minutes and 2 hours of deep sleep a night. I seem to fall in the middle of that grouping (the results above are typical of most of my nights). I had wondered if I might need and therefore experience more deep sleep as a result of training. Since I didn’t get the system until after triathlon season ended for me, I don’t really think I have the answer yet. Logic would suggest I’d be in need of more restorative sleep during a longer or more intense training week.

REM, on the other hand is something that is needed pretty much everyday. To varying degrees, I’m in a profession that requires a fair amount of brain usage so it didn’t surprise me that I was getting around 3 hours a night of REM sleep.

As far as total sleep, I seem to be averaging around 7 hours, 45 minutes on weeknights (Sunday – Thursday) and 8 hours, 28 minutes on weekend nights (Friday and Saturday).

Overall, none of this would suggest I’m a bad sleeper, but I’m still struggling with waking up in the morning. This will become more of an issue when I start swimming early in the morning later on in the winter. More than once, I skipped my workout to sleep more. That’s enjoyable, but it doesn’t really help me prepare for an upcoming season!

I’m still working on that one, but in the meantime, I’m also following the coaching the Zeo site is giving me. For example, I’m trying to limit caffeinated beverages after 3:00 pm. I’m also seeking to reduce the amount of bright light I’m exposed to during the last hour before going to bed. Both seem to be having a positive effect.

This is an ongoing process so I’ll post from time to time on my progress and any other nuggets of information I gather.

Thanks for reading!

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