The secret to a good, deep night’s sleep? A neurophysiologist reveals it

Waking up every morning well and rested, we would all sign up for it. Unfortunately, in practice we sometimes wake up broken due to a bad night’s sleep. How can we prevent that in the future? We asked sleep expert Leo van Woerden about the secret.

Leo van Woerden is a neuroscientist, sleep expert and founder of Mindmints. We spoke to him about the effect of rhythm on your night’s sleep, how many hours of sleep is ideal and about what is crucial for a good evening routine.

In conversation with neurophysiologist Leo van Woerden

Leo states that rhythm has a major influence on our sleep. Of course, that doesn’t sound illogical, and you probably already knew that in the back of your mind. But this turns out to be quite difficult for many people. A few key questions.

How big is the influence of rhythm on our sleep?

“We can say that rhythm is one of the most important things for our quality of life. Life is all about rhythm. We have ebb and flow, the world revolves around the sun, there is rhythm everywhere in nature. The better the rhythm, the more power you get out of it. If you go to bed around the same time every day, you will make your sleep much more efficient. As a result, you sleep much deeper, and with that you can ultimately shorten your hours of sleep. It also works the other way around: if you always go to sleep at different times, you sleep much less deeply. Your sleep becomes less efficient this way, and as a result you need more hours in bed.”

What about nighttime vomiting on the weekend?

“People often have a varying rhythm during the weekend, where they like to go to bed a little later and sleep in longer, but in the end this is not good for your rhythm and therefore the quality of your sleep. The more you go to bed at the same time, the better you notice this in your body.”

Doesn’t that make life a bit boring?

“In addition to being a sleep expert, I am also a musician. That’s why I always say: if you know where the notes are, that doesn’t mean you make a nice song. The song gets pretty when you go groove. That means that you sometimes have to dance around the beat to get back on top a few bars later. That’s how it works in life. You also have to do fun things, and sometimes you have to step out of that rhythm for a while, but it is very helpful to know your rhythm.”

Does it matter until what time we sleep?

“Getting up at the same time every morning is very easy these days, because we have the alarm clock for that. But the moment you need an alarm clock to wake up, you often have a sleep deprivation. Then your body probably needs extra sleep. So the main focus should be on going to bed. After a while you notice that you automatically wake up at the same times, at the end of your dream sleep.”

How do you recognize a lack of sleep in yourself?

“You can recognize a lack of sleep, of course, from fatigue, but also from a poor resistance, a poorer memory and an emotional imbalance. People often try to twist themselves in all kinds of ways to get more energy. We drink coffee or start the morning with exercise. But if you have a built-up sleep deprivation, it is more effective to work on that first. So we often try to ‘biohack’ our days, but if you don’t start with tackling your night’s sleep, then in my opinion it is carrying water to the sea. People often underestimate that.”

And does a power nap during the day help?

“If you are sleep deprived, then you certainly benefit from a power nap. If you do that power nap at fixed times, it will become more efficient again. Your sleep cycle continues to count when you’re awake. So if you go to bed late once and want to get some extra sleep the next day, keep counting 90 minutes after the time you normally go to sleep. Then that power nap is the most efficient.”

What tip do you have for people who want to build rhythm?

“There are many tips and tricks to build in a routine for a good night’s sleep, but people often go wrong because they don’t want it enough. This makes people deviate and they start doing things that they enjoy more at that moment, such as watching a movie. So the more people understand the importance of getting enough sleep and find their intrinsic motivation, the easier it is to build a new routine and go to bed at that set time.”

Afternoon naps: this is what they do for your health and that’s how you get the most out of it

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The secret to a good, deep night’s sleep? A neurophysiologist reveals it