You aren’t getting the sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed and sharp mentally, am I right?
I’m going to explore 3 important pieces of knowledge to getting a fuller and deeper nights rest.
- What you need to know about the 4 stages of sleep.
- The importance of tracking your sleep.
- How you can get the deepest, most rejuvenating sleep possible.
Ready to learn how to improve your sleep? Great! Let’s dive in.
- 1 It’s About How Well You Sleep
- 2 The 4-Stages of Sleep
- 3 Tracking Your Sleep Patterns
- 4 Ways To Improve Deep Sleep
It’s About How Well You Sleep
Sure, you can lay down for 8-hours a night and call it a good night’s rest, although is it?
After all, we know all-too-well the groggy, unfocused, nervous feeling we get after a night of tossing an turning. However, many of us simply consider poor sleep quality to be an inevitable part of our modern life.
But, poor sleep quality is likely causing you more harm than you realize! This is because it is during deep sleep that your body and mind rejuvenate and recover, which is something that falls short when your sleep is not sound or fulfilling—even IF you lay down for a full 8-hours.
And, not sleeping well can have dangerous health repercussions, since poor quality sleep on a prolonged basis can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, accident, and diabetes.
The 4-Stages of Sleep
To combat these health dangers, you need to go beyond merely laying down each night and closing your eyes, and make sure you are getting all 4-stages of sleep, which include:
Stage 1 – This is a light, initial stage of sleep in which you are easily awakened. In this stage, your brain activity begins to slow, your muscles relax, and you begin to “nod off.” This is also the stage of sleep which leads to the deeper phases of more restful, fulfilling sleep.
Stage 2 – In the second stage—AKA the beginning of sleep–we become completely relaxed, our heart rate and breathing slows, and our body temperature drops. Our sleep during this phase is also light and dreamless, and we can be awakened easily. However, we are likely to be coherent if we are awakened during this stage.
Stage 3 – Now we get to the deep stuff, which is also called “Slow Wave Sleep” (SWS), or “Delta Sleep.” During this phase, you have fallen completely asleep to the point of full muscle relaxation and limited brain activity. This state usually takes about 45-minutes to achieve, and you then fluctuate between SWS and the REM cycle sleep described in stage-4. This is the rejuvenating part of sleep in which the body’s Human Growth Hormone (HGH) production is at its highest, which is the hormone your body needs to repair tissues and remain youthful.
This is also the part of sleep in which all your functions are at their least active, and you are not easily awakened. However, should you be awakened during this phase, you are likely to be groggy, unfocused, and have difficulty forming coherent thoughts.
Stage 4 – Finally, there is the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, which is when your dreams are most vivid. The REM stage is also characterized by an increased heart rate, breathing, and brain activity. REM sleep cycles with SWS cycles, with the REM cycle becoming progressively longer as the night goes on.
However, those of us not getting a full night’s rest which includes all 4-sleep cycles may not even be aware of it, which is where sleep tracking comes in.
Tracking Your Sleep Patterns
Tracking your sleep and gathering data to analyze can be a very effective way of discovering patterns, habits, and outside causes of why you may not be sleeping well. In fact, there are several phone apps which can help you track data that are simple and convenient to use.
Some examples of sleep tracker apps are:
- Sleep Cycle iOS—This app is free, or you can upgrade to its premium version for $9.99 per year. It uses a microphone to track awake, asleep and deep sleep cycles for easy to use data recording. The app works with your iPhone, and a snore tracker has also been recently added.
- Sleep as Android—This free Android app uses both an accelerometer and microphone to track awake, light sleep, deep sleep and REM cycles. It is one of the most downloaded apps in the Google Play Store, and is an effective tool in helping you improve your sleep.
- Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock—The Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock for your iPhone or iPad is one of the most complete sleep data apps available. The cost is free, or $29 per year for the premium version, with the premium adding activity analytics to an already feature-rich app. It uses microphone motion detection which it is claimed produces the most accurate results.
There are other apps and devices to help you track and monitor your sleep patterns, many of which can cost up to hundreds of dollars.
However, these examples of free or low-cost apps are a great place to start and can help you track your sleep patterns to help you on your way to healthier, more restful sleep.
Ways To Improve Deep Sleep
By tracking your sleep, you will likely begin to see patterns from which you can pinpoint problem areas in your sleep. From these, you can make any changes necessary to improve your quality of sleep.
For instance, you may notice that you are falling asleep much too quickly and going into slow wave sleep within a few minutes, rather than in around 45-minutes.
If this is the case, you probably find yourself groggy and unwilling to get up in the morning.
This indicates that you are sleep deprived.
This may mean making time for more sleep, taking measures to reduce your stress, or altering your sleep chamber to be more conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Or, you may notice that you are spending too much time falling asleep, or that too much of your sleeping time is spent in the early, light stages of sleep.
This can be indication that stress hormones, too much light in the sleep chamber.
Or it could be overconsumption of stimulants during the day.
Regardless of what your symptoms are, here are 7 ways you can improve the quality of your sleep:
1. Sleep In A Comfortable Bed
This may seem obvious, although many of us may not even realize how worn out, too firm, or too soft our mattress is!
And with so many quality bedding companies using modern sleep technology on the market today, there is no reason to be ruining your sleep with an uncomfortable mattress. Remember too that your pillow and bedding material need to be supportive, comfortable, and clean.
Want to really get serious about sleeping better? …
Try a smart mattress, such as the ones offered by EightSleep. For only slightly more than what you would pay for other premium mattresses, you can have sleep tracking, temperature control and smart alarms all in one convenient package. Think of it as an investment which pays you dividends in sleep quality.
2. Stay On Schedule
Our modern lifestyles have us running in different directions all day and night, which could be wreaking havoc on your sleep quality. By establishing a consistent bedtime, rising time, and nightly bedtime routine and adhering to it, you can better program your body to hit its sleep cycles on a regular basis.
And yes, this includes during your weekend as well!
3. Keep It Cool And Dark
While it may be less comfortable to get up in the night in a cool room, you may be reducing your chances of NEEDING to get up by leaving the heat off!
Try for a sleep chamber temperature of 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered optimal for a good night’s sleep. You can also wear socks or place a heating pad at your feet to help your internal thermostat maintain a comfortable temperature.
Your sleep chamber should be free of light and well ventilated, and be sure to keep it clean of dust, pet dander and mold, since allergies are a common cause of sleeplessness. In fact, you should think of your sleep chamber as a kind of cool, clean, well ventilated cave.
4. Have Some Magnesium
Magnesium helps your body produce hormones to help you manage stress, and is also known to help you achieve deep, restful, uninterrupted sleep.
And, magnesium deficiency is common with adults in our modern world, which may be why so many of us sleep so poorly!
Try adding magnesium rich foods to your diet such as leafy greens, nuts, chocolate (remember it has caffeine though!) or unprocessed whole grains. You can also use a magnesium supplement, and if you do so, consider using magnesium citrate, which is the most cost effective, absorbable and bio-available form.
However, start with a low dose, since magnesium can have a laxative effect initially, which will diminish within a day or so.
5. Quit Smoking!
Okay, just in case you don’t have thousands of other reasons to stop your tobacco habit, here is one more: Smoking is keeping you awake!
To start, nicotine is a stimulant, and having a cigarette before bed can have a similar effect as having a cup of coffee.
Nicotine is also highly addictive, which means that cravings can hit anytime—including during sleep. This can upset sleep cycles, especially when you need to get up to have a cigarette, which in turn is like having another cup of coffee. Just stop already, okay?
6. Get Some Exercise
When you are active, you sleep better—simple as that.
In fact, studies have shown us that daily moderate exercise can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep in insomnia sufferers.
This may have to do with the elevation in body temperature which exercise causes, which is followed by a decreased body temperature which may help sleep.
Exercise may also have a “resetting” effect on our circadian rhythm, which is our natural sleep/wake cycle.
So, go for a walk, take an afternoon dip in the pool for some easy laps, or sign up for a dance class. You’ll sleep better–and feel better!
7. Get Away From Your Computer
The blue light waves emitted by your phone screen, computer screen and other electronic devices are great for boosting your attention, mood, and reflexes, although not so great for lulling us to sleep at night.
In fact, too much of any light at night can lead to a decrease in the sleep hormone melatonin, and upset your circadian rhythm.
This in turn may lead to obesity, diabetes, and possibly even cancer, which is why a dark sleep chamber is so important!
However, a dark sleep chamber does little good if you fall asleep viewing your phone–or rather, stay awake viewing your phone!
Sleep is what helps us rejuvenate, rebuild and be ready for the rigors of the day. However, poor quality sleep is as bad for you as not enough sleep, which is why tracking your sleep and identifying problems in your sleep patterns is crucial to your health and wellbeing.
So, by understanding and identifying all 4-sleep cycles and ensuring yours are occurring on schedule each night, you can be healthier, more functional, and less accident prone.
So, get some QUALITY sleep–you deserve it!