Do you zone out during the day or feel yourself overcome with tiredness? Many of us know the feeling when you need to sleep, but what you may not realise is that sleep is as important to your health and well-being as food and water. By understanding how we sleep and what things can affect it, we can make better lifestyle choices to help us improve our sleep quality.
So what actually happens when we sleep? Each night we generally pass through five phases of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. We progress through the five stages in 90 to 110 minute sleep cycles, starting from stage 1 to REM sleep, and over and over again until we wake up. We spend almost 50% of our total sleep time in stage 2 sleep, about 20% in REM sleep, and the remaining 30% in the other stages.
Stage 1 – Light Sleep
During stage 1 our eyes move slowly, muscle activity slows and we can be woken up easily.
Stage 2 – Slow Sleep
When we enter stage 2, our eye movements stop and our brain waves becomes slower.
Stage 3 – Extremely Slow Sleep
During stage 3 our brain waves slow down even more.
Stage 4 – Deep Sleep
By stage 4, the brain waves become even slower. At this stage there is no movement or muscle activity, and it’s difficult to wake someone. If they are woken up during this stage they often feel disoriented and groggy for a while.
REM – Rapid Eye Movement Sleep
When we enter REM sleep, our breathing becomes shallow, rapid and irregular. Our eyes move rapidly, our limb muscles become temporarily paralysed, our heart rate increases and blood pressure rises.
Why is it important to understand these stages of sleep? Since sleep and wakefulness are influenced by brain waves and signals, food and substances can affect the balance of these, causing us to either sleep well and wake up feeling alert or sleep badly and wake up feeling drowsy.
Here are a 5 things to avoid before bed so that you can move through each sleep phase easily and get a quality night sleep.
Caffeine and Sugar
Caffeinated and drinks with high sugar content like soft drink and coffee, stimulate some parts of the brain, causing insomnia or the inability to sleep
Substances such as some medications and decongestants stimulate some parts of the brain causing the inability to sleep, while others can suppress REM sleep
Smokers who absorb nicotine often sleep very lightly and have reduced amounts of REM sleep, and often wake up after 3-4 hours due to nicotine withdrawal
Alcohol does help people fall into light sleep, however it heavily reduces REM sleep and the deeper, restorative stages of sleep so that they only sleep in the lighter stages of sleep
Very hot or very cold temperatures can be disruptive to REM sleep, because during REM sleep our bodies can lose the ability to regulate our body temperature
Do you want to learn more about your sleep? Sleepsense allows you to adapt your bed and track your sleep patterns so you can understand your sleep and make adjustments so you sleep better.