Good sleep quality can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Sleep can help people fight the negative effects of stress and tiredness more effectively every day. The naturally recurring phenomenon called sleep allows the body to rejuvenate, both physically and mentally, and get ready for the next day.
The Sleep Cycle
There are different types of sleep, non-rapid eye movement, or NREM, sleep, and rapid eye movement, or REM sleep. NREM sleep is divided into four stages, as follows:
- Stage 1: Basically an introduction to sleep, you are somewhat alert and can wake up rather easily in this stage. Stage 1 is brief, lasting up to seven minutes for most people.
- Stage 2: This is also relatively light sleep, but the brain waves start to slow down in stage 2.
- Stage 3 and 4: These stages of the sleep cycle involve deep sleep. It is during deep sleep that the body repairs itself through regeneration of tissues and building bone and muscle.
REM sleep occurs in cycles throughout the night, with the first cycle occurring approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep. The REM cycles typically last up to an hour, and the average adult has five to six REM cycles every night. During REM sleep, your brain processes the information from the previous day in order to store it in your long-term memory.
Sleep plays an important role in the body’s regulation of hormones, which can have an affect on appetite and stress levels. This explains why poor sleep quality can increase risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Mental health is also affected by sleep quality.
Poor quality of sleep can make a person weak and irritated during the day. It can make a person vulnerable to the negative effects of stress. We’ve all “woken up on the wrong side of the bed” when we do not get adequate sleep.
Ways to Improve Sleep
Sleep hygiene is a group of behaviors that can be done to help get a good night of sleep. Practicing good sleep hygiene can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep.
Below are some sleep hygiene tips from the American Sleep Association:
- Maintain a regular sleep routine
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (or at least as much as possible).
- Avoid naps if possible
- Taking naps can cause sleep fragmentation and make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Do not stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes
- If you find your mind racing and are not able to sleep, get out of bed and sit in a chair in the dark. Let your mind race while in the chair, then go to bed when you feel tired.
- Do not watch TV or read in bed
- These activities can associate the bed with wakefulness.
- The bed should only be used for two things – sleep and sex.
- Be careful with caffeine
- Do not consume caffeine in the eight hours before bedtime.
- This means that if you go to bed at 10 p.m., you should stop the caffeine at 2 p.m.
- Avoid substances that can interfere with sleep
- This includes caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs which can have an adverse effect on sleep.
- Get regular exercise
- Exercise promotes better sleep.
- You should avoid rigorous exercise right before bedtime. Ideally, you should exercise before 2 p.m.
- Maintain a quiet, comfortable bedroom
- Keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.
- Turn off bright lights. It is much easier to sleep in the dark.
- Keep pets out of your room if they tend to wake you up at night.
- Do not be a “clock watcher”
- Watching the clock can increase your anxiety, especially if you are having problems sleeping.
- If you are one of those people who are constantly looking at the clock at night, hide it.
- Establish a pre-bedtime routine, and stick to it
- Get more information from the American Sleep Association.
Remember that in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, good quality sleep is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In addition to improving your health, good sleep can help you to become a more productive and happy person.
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- Penn A, May J, Doug, et al. Sleep Hygiene Tips – Research & Treatments: American Sleep Assoc. American Sleep Association. https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-hygiene-tips/. Accessed December 28, 2019.
- Sleep Basics: REM, Sleep Stages, & More. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics. Accessed December 28, 2019.
- Understanding Sleep Cycles. Sleep.org. https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-happens-during-sleep/. Accessed December 27, 2019.
- Van Cauter E, Knutson K, Leproult R, Spiegel K. The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism. Medscape Neurology. https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/502825. Accessed December 27, 2019.