The Sleep Experiment: Discover Your Perfect Night's Sleep

Do you consider yourself to be a night owl or an early bird? Current research shows that a preference for being an early riser or a late sleeper is influenced by genetics.

A study conducted at the University of California at San Francisco by Dr. Ying-Hui Fu and her team revealed a rare mutation in the DEC2 gene of a mother and daughter who needed only an average of 6.5 hours of sleep per night due to more intense REM sleep states. People with this mutation (aka “short-sleepers”) appear to sleep more efficiently than the rest of us.

Think you are one of the lucky few? The odds are stacked against you. Less than 3% of the population is said to carry this mutation. For the other 97% of us, how do we find out how much sleep we need?  

After feeling sleep-deprived for close to two years, I stumbled upon something known as the sleep vacation. Don’t worry... no stress-provoking airport security lines of TSA pat-downs necessary! You don’t need to go any further than your own bed. Summer may be just the time to try this little experiment. I did it, and afterwards, I felt better and more rested than I had in years. Here’s what you need to do.
  • Carve out two weeks where you have enough flexibility to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up without that annoying alarm clock.
  • For the first couple of days, you may sleep longer if you have been sleep deprived. This is how your body pays off its “sleep debt.”
  • Continue going to bed at a consistent time and waking up naturally. Within two weeks, your body will establish a sleep pattern, obtaining the same amount of sleep each night. That is your magic number!
After two weeks, I discovered that my body preferred nine hours of sleep. No wonder I had felt sleep deprived! I was only allowing myself between 6 and 7 hours of sleep every night for the past several years.

A comfortable mattress and pillow are also keys to a good night’s sleep. Also, try and limit television watching and computer use in the few hours before bedtime. The visual stimulation can interfere with your body’s natural winding down before bedtime.  

Schedule your sleep vacation and follow this simple formula. You’ll be sleeping like a baby before you know it!

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