Who knew a good night sleep was such a unicorn? Well it is but doesn’t have to be, especially if you understand sleep. Did you know there are 4 stages of sleep? Yep, it is not as straight forward as you might think. Keep reading, you might discover why you wake up tired some mornings and with the same number of hours of sleep, you wake well rested.
The following are the stages of sleep found on the National Institute of Health website.
Stage 1- Awake is the changeover from wakefulness to sleep. For several minutes of relatively light sleep, your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, and your muscles relax with occasional twitches. Your brain waves begin to slow from their daytime wakefulness patterns.
Stage 2 - Light Sleep is a period before you enter deeper sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax even further. Your body temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity. You spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep than in other sleep stages.
Light sleep helps in promoting mental and physical restoration.
Stage 3 - Deep Sleep is the period that you need to feel refreshed in the morning. It occurs in longer periods during the first half of the night. Your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels during sleep. Your muscles are relaxed and it may be difficult to awaken you. Brain waves become even slower.
The blood pressure drops and muscle growth and repair occur during this stage. Overall restoration of your physical body occurs in this stage. If you are awakened during this stage you feel groggy and disoriented.
Stage 4 REM (rapid eye movement) Sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can also occur in non-REM sleep. Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. As you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep. Memory consolidation most likely requires light, deep and REM sleep.
This stage is where your vivid dreams occur. During this stage your mind is re-energized. It is also helpful for learning and problem solving.
Good sleep is very important to our overall health. According to Healthline.com, it is as important to our health as exercise and eating healthy. Unfortunately, many of us have terrible sleep habits and are generally not sleeping enough. Just like nutrition and exercise, sleep needs a plan. We need to be intentional in making sure we get enough.
Our need for sleep and our sleep patterns change as we age. There are many factors that impact our ability to get a good night’s sleep. There are recommendations for the number of hours of sleep that we should get a night. Babies sleep around 16 to 18 hours per day. School-age children and teens on average need about 9.5 hours of sleep per night. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but after age 60, nighttime sleep tends to be shorter, lighter, and interrupted by multiple awakenings.
If you are reading this and saying, I am getting the recommended amount sleep for my age but I still wake tired and groggy then you need to consider your sleep cycles. Of the hours you sleep, 2-5% should be in the awake stage, 45-55% should be spent in the light stage of sleep, 13-23% in deep sleep and finally, 20-25% in the REM stage of sleep. There are many electronic devices out there that you can use to measure the time in each stage. I use and recommend using a Fitbit; use it long enough to establish that your sleep is on tract.
If you are having trouble sleeping due to heavy snoring or any other reason and you find yourself sleepy throughout the day, you should discuss this with your doctor as you might have a sleep disorder. Lack of sleep puts you at risk for a heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, compromised immunity and inflammation.
In closing, remember sleep is as important as exercise and good nutrition. According to healthline.com, you simply cannot achieve optimal health without good sleep. If you want some tips on how to get a good night sleep, check out Tips to Ensure You Sleep.