Healthy Sleep

We Used a Sleep Calculator For 5 Days and Here's What Happened

Do you wake up feeling tired in the morning? Your sleep schedule could be all wrong. It’s not always about getting more sleep, but taking steps to ensure your body experiences complete sleep cycles, no matter how long you’re actually asleep for.

If you find yourself waking feeling groggy and unmotivated, your body may not be completing full sleep cycles. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and repeats 4-6 times during the night. Waking up mid-way through a cycle can leave you feeling tired and unenergised, even if you’ve had plenty of sleep. If you can wake after a full cycle, you’re likely to feel more awake and refreshed, even if you’ve actually slept for less time. That’s why sometimes when you’re late to bed, you feel surprisingly awake the next day. Have you ever had a late night out at an event and gone to bed worried about how tired you’ll be in the morning meeting, only to find you feel uncharacteristically awake?! Your body probably completed a full sleep cycle. 

To investigate whether waking after a complete sleep cycle really impacts how you feel when you wake up, we used the Ecosa sleep calculator to determine the best time to wake up and the best time to go to bed. The sleep calculator works by telling you the best time to wake up based on the time you plan to go to bed, or the other way around – if you need to wake up by a certain time, it'll tell you the best time to drift off. 

The test subject was Emma from our creative team. A serial alarm-snoozer, Emma used the Ecosa sleep calculator to work out the best times to fall asleep to feel the most alert. Here's what happened:

Monday

Sleep time: 11.00pm

Awake time: 6.00am

Comments

A busy weekend meant I was really overtired this morning - I don't think any number of sleep cycles or any amount of sleep would have made me feel less groggy! I did try to go to sleep at 10.30pm to wake at 6.00am, but I was restless. The 6.00am wakeup time was non-negotiable as I had to drop my partner off. I felt a bit groggy at first, but fine throughout the day.

Tuesday

Sleep time: 11.00pm

Awake time: 6.30am

Comments

Usually when going to sleep as late as 11pm, I'd have assumed I needed to get as much sleep as possible by sleeping in until the last minute, but after consulting the Ecosa sleep calculator,  I set my alarm for 6.30am instead. While it was tough to get out of bed earlier than I technically had to, I definitely felt more alert. I even did a YouTube workout before 7am, AND didn't fall asleep at my desk by the afternoon!

Wednesday

Sleep time: 10.30pm

Awake time: 6.00am

Comments

I'd made a pact with a friend to wake up early and work out. I'd planned to go to bed at 10pm, but according to the Ecosa sleep calculator, I'd be more likely to complete full sleep cycles by my 6am alarm if I went to sleep at 10.30. When my alarm went off at 6am, I got up, splashed my face with cold water and immediately had a drink. I felt ready to workout fairly quickly, and didn't take as long as normal to fully wake up. Either I completed full sleep cycles or my friend pact was working! 

Thursday

Sleep time: 11.00pm

Awake time: 6.00am

Comments 

Ok I messed up here. I had planned to do the same as Wednesday night, and drift off around 10.30pm for a 6.00am wakeup, but I didn't manage to settle until 11.00pm. I looked at the Ecosa sleep calculator, which recommended I get up at 5.00am or 6.30am instead. 5am, um no thank you! And 6.30am wouldn't be long enough to complete the workout I had in mind for the next morning, so I went for it knowing I might not complete full sleep cycles. Despite getting 7 hours of sleep, I definitely felt more groggy than the day before. Lesson learned.

Friday

Sleep time: 10.30pm

Awake time: 5.50am

Comments

My body clock actually woke me at 5.50am today, which was a surprise! As a chronic non-morning person, being able to set a routine for my body to complete the same sleep cycles each night is amazing. I had a really good nights sleep, too. Maybe I'll be the productive morning person I always dreamed of being now?!

What are the sleep cycles?

Transitional Sleep

Lasting about 5 minutes, this stage of your sleep cycle is essentially the time during which you’re falling asleep. You’re easily awakened, but your muscle activity is starting to slow down.

Light Sleep

This second stage lasts a little longer at 10-25 minutes. Your heart rate slows and your body temperature cools, and you enter the first part of true restorative sleep.

Deep Sleep

Deep sleep is where physical energy is restored, and blood flow reaches your muscles. If you’re woken during this time, you’ll probably feel noticeably groggy and confused. 

REM Sleep

REM sleep is the stage of your sleep cycle in which you dream. You’ll reach REM sleep around 70-90 minutes after falling asleep, and this stage signals the end of the cycle. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase but your body will remain very still, as your body prepares to complete a sleep cycle.

How to feel more awake on less sleep

So, if your pumping social schedule or a week of exams means you’ve got a week of unavoidable late nights planned, going to bed at the right time may help you feel more awake on less sleep. A better night's sleep isn't always down to how many hours – try looking at how many sleep cycles you can fit in, instead!

Use the Ecosa sleep calculator to find the right bedtime for you.