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Flexible Sleep for Recovery: The 90 Minute Sleep Cycle

Flexible sleep for recovery: The 90-minute sleep cycle method

Let’s be real – we all love our beauty sleep. But have you ever noticed that sometimes, no matter how long you sleep, you still feel tired the next day?

That's because the quality of our sleep is just as important as the quantity. And that's where the 90 minute sleep cycle comes in.

Our sleep cycles are made up of different stages, and it's crucial to complete a full cycle for optimal muscle gains and recovery, and mental rejuvenation and well-being. And cycles of 90 minutes of sleep seem to be the perfect amount of time to complete a full sleep cycle.

So, in this article, we're going to talk about flexible sleep and how the 90 minute sleep cycle can help you get the best sleep possible. Night owl or early bird – you'll learn how to adjust your sleep to match your natural sleep rhythm and achieve ultimate snooze recovery.

So, grab your cozy blanket, fill up your protein shaker, and let's chat about all things flexible sleep and the 90 minute sleep cycle time!

The science of sleep cycles

Sleep is a complex process that is divided into different stages, each with its own unique purpose. So how does our sleep cycle work?

The first stage is NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which lasts for 5-10 minutes and is characterized by slow eye movements and a relaxed body. This stage is when we transition from being awake to being asleep.

The second stage, NREM2, lasts for 20-25 minutes and is when our body temperature drops, heart rate and breathing slow down, and we begin to enter deeper sleep.

The third stage, NREM3, is the stage that is most crucial for those engaging in resistance training. During this stage, our body enters deep sleep and our muscles undergo a repair and growth process. This stage lasts the longest and is essential in reducing muscle soreness and promoting muscle growth.

So, the 90 minute sleep cycle refers to the time it takes for our body to complete one cycle of sleep, made up of the different stages of sleep including NREM, NREM2, and NREM3.

Utilising the 90 Minute Sleep Cycle for Recovery

By timing our sleep to align with the 90 minute cycle, we can maximise recovery benefits.

It's important to understand the length of time each stage of sleep lasts and when they occur during the cycle. For example, NREM3 typically occurs in the first half of the cycle and lasts for the longest period, making it essential to avoid waking up during this stage and interrupting the recovery process.

Moreover, think about these three tips when trying to line up your 90 minute sleep cycle:

1. Plan Your Nightly Sleep in 90 minute Cycles and Aim for 5 Cycles Per Night

Follow this formula and you’ll be hitting a tidy 7.5 hours each night.

If you have to wake up earlier than planned, wake up at the start of the 90 minute closest to your required wake-up time e.g. If I need to be up for work at 5:30 am and I normally wake at 6:30 am, then I’ll get up 90 minutes earlier than normal at 5 am – this time corresponds with the end of that sleep cycle.

Whilst that may sound a little crazy, remember waking up at the end of a 90 minute sleep cycle is the best way to not feel groggy and slow.

If you need to go to bed later than normal, go to bed at the start of your next 90 minute cycle e.g. If you can’t make your normal bedtime of 11 pm, go to bed at 12:30 am – this time aligns with the start of your next sleep cycle.

Again, this gives you the flexibility to go to bed around life’s commitments, but still get quality sleep because you’re sticking to your natural circadian sleep rhythms.

2. Always get up at the same time every day regardless of how many cycles you have

For example, I always get up at 6:30 am and aim to be asleep by 11 pm (7.5 hours = 5 cycles).

Once again, your body’s energy levels are determined largely by your circadian rhythms, which thrive on a consistent routine and take a hit when you constantly change your sleep-wake schedule.

If you want to sleep in without interfering with your body clock, stick to your normal wake-up time, get up for at least 15 minutes and be active, then go back to bed for the sleep-in.

3. Aim for 28-35 sleep cycles each week

If you get less than that supplement with a daily nap. Napping can be a great way of catching up on some much-needed rest.

Bulk Nutrients Ambassador Tammie Sarkozy taking a glass of water

Benefits of the 90 Minute Sleep Cycle for Muscle Growth

For those of you pumping weights for more muscle gains, utilising the 90 minute sleep cycle can have significant benefits for recovery.

By aligning our sleep with the cycle, we can ensure that our body has enough time to enter deep sleep and undergo the repair and growth process. This can help reduce muscle soreness and promote muscle growth, leading to improved performance and overall recovery!

In addition, improved sleep quality can have a positive impact on our mental well-being, reducing stress and anxiety levels and increasing our overall happiness and satisfaction. A good night's sleep can also improve our mood, memory, and concentration, making it easier to stay focused and motivated in our training, diet, and career.

Tips for Improving Sleep Quality

Aside from timing our sleep to align with the 90 minute cycle, there are other factors that can affect sleep quality and our ability to recover.

These include diet, exercise, and the environment in which we sleep. To improve sleep quality, it's important to create a sleep-conducive environment, avoid screens before bed, and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.

So what’s a sleep-conducive environment look like? Well, things like a comfortable bed, the right temperature, and minimal noise and light all help.

As mentioned, avoid screens before bed, as the blue light emitted from our devices can disrupt our circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep.

Then there’s your training and diet: a balanced diet and exercise routine have a big impact on our sleep quality; eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help regulate our sleep patterns. Regular exercise can also help improve sleep quality, as long as it's done in moderation and at least a few hours before bedtime.

Bulk Nutrients Ambassador Ed Roberts

Wrapping up the 90 minute sleep cycle

To wrap up – the 90 minute sleep cycle plays a crucial role in ensuring optimal sleep quality and recovery. Understanding the different stages of sleep and aligning your sleep with the 90 minute cycle can help maximise the benefits of sleep, including reducing muscle soreness and promoting muscle growth.

To improve sleep quality, it is important to create a sleep-conducive environment, avoid screens before bed, maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, and plan your sleep in 90 minute cycles.

Aiming for five cycles per night and getting up at the same time every day can also help regulate your circadian rhythm and ensure a consistent sleep schedule.

By incorporating these tips, you can ensure that your beauty sleep is not just about quantity, but also about quality.

References:

  1. McPartland RJ, Kupfer DJ. Rapid eye movement sleep cycle, clock time and sleep onset. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1978 Aug;45(2):178-85. doi: 10.1016/0013-4694(78)90002-0. PMID: 78828.
  2. Patel AK, Reddy V, Shumway KR, Araujo JF. Physiology, Sleep Stages. 2022 Sep 7. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 30252388.
  3. Silvani MI, Werder R, Perret C. The influence of blue light on sleep, performance and wellbeing in young adults: A systematic review. Front Physiol. 2022 Aug 16;13:943108. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.943108. PMID: 36051910; PMCID: PMC9424753.
  4. Binks H, E Vincent G, Gupta C, Irwin C, Khalesi S. Effects of Diet on Sleep: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2020 Mar 27;12(4):936. doi: 10.3390/nu12040936. PMID: 32230944; PMCID: PMC7230229.
  5. Chen Y, Cui Y, Chen S, Wu Z. Relationship between sleep and muscle strength among Chinese university students: a cross-sectional study. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2017 Dec 1;17(4):327-333. PMID: 29199194; PMCID: PMC5749041.

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