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Ever wonder how you can get more sunlight and light exposure out of your day? This question is common in our health-driven society, and it seems like the most popular thing we can ask ourselves is how to get more.
More out of your naps, more time to hit the snooze button on your alarm clock, more time to shift work at your job, more joy out of your life, more health benefits from your daily food choices — the idea that we are looking for more is prevalent. What’s more, these questions seem to be in every single advertisement, subliminal message, and signal that we receive throughout our daily lives.
Bed manufacturers are claiming that they can give you a deeper sleep routine to get more out of your rest; healthy food subscriptions are claiming they can provide you more health benefits without impacting your time or being limited by your cooking skills; even technology is constantly evolving to provide you with more and more.
But what if there was one particular aspect of your life that you have complete control over that can give you more in every part of your life. Something that you don’t need to sign up for a monthly subscription or purchase the latest generational gadget to really and genuinely start getting more, especially during the daytime?
What’s more, this investment will affect every part of your day, from your work experience to the decisions you make in your diet and love life to helping improve even your emotional and mental health.
Well, if you’re curious as to what this special something is -- you might be surprised to find out that it’s something as everyday as sleep! This 24-hour sleep-wake cycle is known as the circadian rhythm.
If your goal is to start actively enjoying better nights of sleep, you need to understand what a night of sleep actually entails to understand what goals you should be setting.
To prevent the risk of sleep deprivation, you need to be getting as many REM cycles as possible. But what is a REM cycle?
Once you understand what a sleep cycle is and what things like REM sleep can do for you, you can then start to plan how to experience them.
Sleep isn’t just a matter of laying down, closing your eyes, and hoping for the best. Multiple factors go into making sure your mind and body regenerate and experience the full benefit of sleep -- so let’s look at these four phases of sleep.
Sleep itself happens in four distinct phases. These phases are further divided into two types of sleep: nonREM (or simply N) sleep, and REM sleep. REM itself stands for rapid eye movement.
These two types of sleep have their own unique health benefits. It’s very important that you experience both types of sleep and all four phases of a healthy sleep cycle to actually engage in all the health benefits that a full night of sleep can offer you.
This is that initial dozing off -- where you bridge the gap between consciousness and unconsciousness. This is a critical phase and one we’ll give you some good pointers on how to achieve.
This phase is a step further than phase 1, and your body is starting to relax and get ready for the next two phases of sleep, known as the deep sleep phases.
For most people, this stage of sleep actually represents up to half of their total time spent in their sleep cycle. It’s not quite deep sleep, but it’s more than just dozing off.
While this phase can refresh your eyes, it doesn’t have the deep benefits of sleep. People spending time here can wake up tired and frustrated rather than refreshed and invigorated.
Phase 3 of the sleep cycle is the first phase of deep sleep. Here your body is going deep into sleep and your body puts in measures to cause your skeletal muscles to experience deep relaxation in preparation for paralysis that occurs in REM.
This happens so that when you go into REM — the phase where you dream — you don’t actually physically act out your dreams.
This phase of sleep is where the magic really happens! Your brain kicks into high function mode, your body is in deep sleep paralysis, and your entire system experiences the most benefit from sleep in REM.
An entire sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes on average, and it is suggested that a person get at least four to six sleep cycles per night.
So here’s the real question -- how do you get to this point?
If you have been having trouble falling asleep, then chances are you aren’t giving yourself enough time to hit the proper amount of REM sleep you need. Even if you reach deep sleep while you're sleeping, you won’t get everything you need if you don’t have enough sleep to hit enough REM phases.
On the flip side, you could also be getting hours and hours of sleep but still wake up feeling tired and drained. This could indicate that while you're falling asleep, you’re not moving through cycles of sleep adequately to hit enough REM sleep.
This could look like getting stuck in a certain sleep cycle phase or being awakened consistently before reaching REM. Not experiencing deep sleep can cause you to feel tired, groggy, and weak even if you got your full eight hours of sleep time.
The first part of your process has to be prioritizing your sleep schedule. This means realistically taking into account of all the activities in your days throughout the week. If you don’t have a good grip on what you need to do and want to do, grab a sleep journal and dedicate a part of that journal to this assessment.
Blindly trying to focus on more sleep won’t make much sense until you start making it serve your greater purposes. If you can define your daily activities and goals, you can see where you need to shift or even cut out certain items to make more room for sleep.
Once you’ve structured your days to give you room for not only your daily goals and activities but for sleep as well, look for ways to get adequate exercise, too.
While it’s possible to develop brain fatigue if you sit at a desk and use your mind all day -- but sleep is a full-body process.
Giving your muscles a chance to exert energy and get tired is a big part of getting ready for a bedtime routine. We suggest working out early in the morning or midday.
These two times help you wake up and utilize your energy adequately without raising your heart rate and metabolism too close to bedtime.
Yes, you guessed it — the screens have to go! Now, it’s easy to think that sleep articles just hate technology, but that’s not the case.
Whether you’re trying to deal with exposure to blue light, there are plenty of ways to help regulate our bodies’ internal clocks with the help of things like an eye mask, blackout curtains, and just putting down our devices.
We realize how important computers, cell phones, and tablets are to our daily lives, education, and jobs. However, spending an hour away from these devices before bed has immense health benefits. Be sure to steer clear from electronic devices for peaceful nighttime sleep — your laptop can survive without you.
Hobbies like drawing, painting, or reading give your mind a great place to relax, learn, and even exercise lightly while winding down for the night. This redirects your focus away from the cold turkey approach of just not having screen stimulation before bed.
When it comes to trying to get a full night of sleep, something you don’t want to do is get your heart rate skyrocketing right before you turn in for the night.
Working out and getting exercise is a great way to develop healthy fatigue that will push your body into rest mode, but your body needs time to wind down. Doing a full workout too close to bed will actually keep you awake.
We suggest learning healthy meditation and stretching. Yoga’s restorative practices are a great place to start learning how to do this, as this will give you a safe level of activity that doesn’t push you into alertness but soothes you into wind-down mode.
Alcohol is warm, fuzzy and is considered something that helps you fall asleep. However, alcohol impedes your ability to go through REM cycles naturally and will cause you to wake up without the full benefits of a night of sleep.
We suggest adding a daily supplement built from botanical ingredients like passionflower and chamomile. Our Calm & Unwind capsule could be a great place to start your journey of finding healthy ways to wind down and get the most out of your sleep.
One of the most important aspects of fixing your sleep schedule is ensuring that your communities know about your priority.
For instance, if your work has become something you take home and keeps you staring at a computer screen well past bedtime, talk with your boss about your new goals for wellness and better sleep. The same goes for friends and family — let them know that your phone is going into Do Not Disturb after 10 pm.
Many people don’t think of the social aspects of sleeping, but most people have normal social commitments that will clash with their desired sleep schedule. It may seem hard at first, but the benefits of getting more sleep will pay off in the end.
Understanding what sleep is and how to get more out of it in your life is a very personal journey that’s different for every person. Be sure to boost good sleep hygiene by following a consistent sleep schedule, practicing regular exercise, limiting caffeine intake, and understanding your internal body clock.
No matter what stage you’re starting during this journey, remember to always have patience with yourself and always bring any medical concerns you may have with sleep up to your doctor.