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For some, sleep is something that comes easy when their heads hit the pillow, while for others, the struggle of not only falling asleep but staying asleep is all too real.
Regardless of your experience with sleep, it is an important component of living a healthy life. In fact, sleep is one of the fundamental cornerstones of your health. It’s more than just an option, it's actually a necessity.
The modern society we live in is one that values crazy schedules and busy lives and typically struggles to balance that with sleep. Sleep quickly becomes the one item on the itinerary that can give and it’s only really ever needed when you are absolutely exhausted.
However, a lifestyle of working on computer screens till late in the night, or staying jacked up on caffeine through the late afternoon just isn’t good for you.
Living a busy lifestyle may help you feel like you’re passing out as soon as your head hits the pillow, but sleep is not just quantity. No, quality sleep is actually worth more than just the quantity of sleep as the process of sleep is a multi-phased cycle with dynamic benefits at each phase.
In fact, most of the time it is deep sleep, which comprises two of the four phases of sleep, that is most lacking in our usual regime. We may have no memory of time passing from the moment we drifted off to the moment our alarm rang, but that doesn’t mean you experienced deep sleep.
A key indicator is how you feel when you wake up. If you constantly struggle with feelings of grogginess, restlessness, or even exhaustion in the morning this could be an indicator that your mind isn’t going through all four phases of the sleep cycle properly.
Now, it’s possible for everyone, regardless of sleep quality, to feel this way when they first awake. However, prolonged feelings of sleep inertia should be noted as a sign that your body is trying to tell you that you aren’t sleeping properly.
Deep sleep is when your body and mind are fully engaged in the most beneficial phases of the sleep cycle. These phases are where your muscles, hormones, and even body temperature are at prime resting levels and yet your brain is starting to be activated. Let's take a closer look at these four phases to better understand a sleep cycle and why each phase is important.
The four phases of a sleep cycle are actually divided into two different categories primarily based on brain activity. Those two categories are what we call REM sleep and non-REM sleep. REM itself stands for Rapid Eye Movement.
During this stage of sleep, your brain is actively engaged in the sleep cycle and your eyes will actually be moving behind your closed eyelids, hence the coy name. The other three phases, the nonREM phases, are shortened to N1, N2, and N3.
N1 and N2 are the first two phases of your sleep cycle. On average, it takes up to ten minutes to move through N1. This phase is literally the bridge from consciousness to unconsciousness as you get sleepy, comfortable and slowly drift off into slumber.
The second phase is N2 and surprisingly has been noted as the main phase of the sleep cycle that people who deal with sleep-related challenges will stay in. This stage is right before deep sleep but you are more submerged in the unconscious than in the previous phase, N1.
Your body starts preparing to engage in deep sleep by relaxing your muscles and your core temperature will begin to lower. While it’s possible to stay stuck in this stage, or even wake up during it and start the whole cycle over again, most people can spend upwards of 20 minutes to an hour moving through this part of the sleep cycle alone.
Phases N3 and REM are known as the deep sleep phases. This is where the real magic goes down. You can think of N3 as the phase of sleep where your physical body is getting a tune-up.
This is where you’ll be deeply relaxing and resting sore muscles or tension that has built up over the day. This is also a phase that is responsible for helping us feel energized and physically ready for the day.
REM sleep is the second phase of deep sleep and this one is more targeted on neural activity. This phase is where your brain is most engaged in your sleep cycle and is thought to be the phase during which you dream. If you are waking up tired and remaining tired and have no memories of dreams, it could be that you have not moved through the REM phase and thus haven’t been moving through the complete cycles.
All of these phases together can last for an hour to two hours and the time does change from person to person. Every phase is important and the effects of not entering into deep sleep can be similar to that of sleep deprivation.
As people get older, they tend to shift into more nonREM sleep than REM sleep. This could be because of a tendency to have unhealthy sleeping habits or due to some phenomena. However, it is noted that most infants spend roughly half their time sleeping in REM and nonREM phases and as we age we tend to lean toward getting more nonREM sleep than REM.
The truth is, that moving through all four phases of sleep isn’t something that can be taken for granted. There is a whole litany of issues that can keep you from healthy, fulfilling sleep. Some of these causes can come down to personal choices that can be easily modified and some could be medical conditions you haven’t been diagnosed with yet.
Regardless, there are certain things you can do to help make sure you are regularly moving through all four phases of a sleep cycle. These changes range from taking supplements to doing exercises to just putting down your phone before bedtime. Let’s take a look at four tips that can help you achieve deeper, more restful sleep.
Chances are you’ve already been aware of this for some time, but that doesn't make it any easier. Saying no to our cell phones and computer screens before preparing for bed is a hard learning curve. During the day we are hooked on the dopamine release they offer and for some, it’s a retraining of the mind to learn how to not be dependent on them.
That being said, multiple studies have shown that detoxing from the blue light rays emitted by most screens can have strong benefits for your sleep patterns.
Alcohol makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside because of the way it interacts with our nervous and cardiovascular systems. In fact, that sleepiness you’re feeling won’t lead to satisfying sleep but instead will actually keep you from entering deep sleep altogether.
Dozing off after a glass of wine or mixed cocktail might sound appealing, but the truth is that your brain will be kept from entering into deep sleep. Alcohol also acts as a buffer, keeping your mind from entering REM sleep or completing the REM phase.
While you should also seek medical consultation whenever you feel uneasy about taking any supplement or medication, there are a lot of generally very safe options out there. Sleep itself is a natural process and finding natural supplements to help support this process isn’t hard.
Supplements that contain powerful ingredients like chamomile, ashwagandha, and L-theanine can help to support a clear, steady mind state while also easing you into a calm place to unwind and get ready for bed. Our supplements here at R3SET utilize these same powerful ingredients along with many other powerful botanicals to help provide stress support so it’s easier for you to get good rest.
Here’s where you can probably get scared because as soon as you read the word ‘exercise’ you may think of untenable goals. But the truth is, simple movements like taking short walks or even utilizing a stress ball can have a massive impact on the quality and duration of your rest.
In conclusion, making sure you move through an entire sleep cycle and experience deep sleep, as well as lighter sleep, is important for your overall health. It will help you feel more fulfilled after a night's sleep and energized for the day.
It may take a little bit of work and some commitment to break bad bedtime habits and form more rewarding ones, but the payoff will be well worth it!
Get Enough Sleep - MyHealthfinder | health.gov
Stages of Sleep |sleepfoundation.org
Stages of Sleep |uofmhealth.org