To put it simply, Sleep is divided into five stages—stages 1, 2, 3, and REM. Each cycle will last around 90 minutes. But why is it important to know this? Well, this is where many people will go wrong when they can't get to sleep and don't know why. The longer you lay there thinking 'if I go to sleep now, I will get 6 hours sleep, but if I go now, I will get 5 hours sleep', the more stressed you get ultimately leading to an even worse nights sleep.
Understanding the rhythm can mean that you create a better routine, knowing when to go to bed then falling asleep faster and more relaxed.
Stage 1: This is when you first fall asleep and is the more restless stage “you’re still hearing things and have a sense of awareness”. It is when your brain has fallen into sleep but you still feel awake.
Stage 2: Light sleep is very important because it takes up more than half of the night. this is when your body processes memories and emotions and your metabolism regulates itself.
Stage 3: This is when you enter a ‘deep sleep’ phase where your mind will be ‘offline’. Your breathing will slow down and muscles will start to relax. During this stage our body will secrete the growth hormone, which is associated with rebuilding and repairing.
REM: Ahhh yes, the phase we all know too well. REM is when the brain is very active, yet the body is very inactive. Actually it’s so inactive, you’re actively paralysed during REM sleep. This is when you’re most likely to dream. It is very important for our emotions and memory—you will be clearing the brain of things that aren’t needed.
So what can we do to ensure we are getting a better nights sleep?
1. Lower your room temperature
If your room is too warm, you might have a hard time falling asleep. Your body temperature naturally changes as you sleep – decreasing body temperature and increasing you’re hand and foot temperature.
2. Set yourself a sleep schedule
Waking up and going to bed at the same times each day can help your internal clock keep a regular schedule. Setting a sleep schedule will help make it easier to fall asleep and wake up.
3. Eating at the right time
Research has shown that eating late at night can cause your body to be on ‘high alert’ making it harder to fall asleep. It is recommended that you don’t eat after 7 pm to digest your food and begin to wind down for the night.
4. Practise Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness and Meditation are both tools that can be used to quiet the mind and relax the body. Being mindful will bring your mind into the present, reducing stress and anxiety making it easier to fall asleep. A simple trick is to slowly count down from 10 – 0 on each breath as many times as you need to fall asleep.
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5. Drink enough water, at the right time
It is important that we drink enough water throughout the day to prevent dehydration while we sleep, however, drinking too much before bed can make you get up to use the bathroom, a condition called ‘noctoria’. These interruptions can disrupt your natural sleep cycle, causing you to feel less rested in the morning.