Sleep cycles – what are they and how can you get a better night’s sleep?

A good night’s sleep is very important for both mental and physical health. Find out what ‘sleep cycles’ are, and how you can get a better night’s sleep.

For a healthy life, good sleep is as important as a balanced diet and exercise. But not everyone is lucky enough to get a good night’s sleep; many people struggle to achieve sound sleep, and can either suffer from poor quality sleep, or find they are continually waking.

There are many reasons behind sleep deprivation. Some people may have insomnia, others cannot sleep due to anxiety and depression.

One of the easiest ways to get proper sleep at night is by taking sleeping pills. But taking sleeping pills daily leads to pill fatigue, and it can also affect health. The alternative to conventional sleeping pills is melatonin gummies. Melatonin is safe to take daily. Research shows that even children can take it. The gummies are more like a treat, easy to eat, delicious, and tasty. 

If you are facing difficulty sleeping and want to know how to get better sleep and the stages of sleep, then read on.

What are ‘sleep cycles’?

Sleep cycles are also known as stages of sleep. On average, we have several rounds of sleep cycles. The sleep cycle is comprised of four to six stages.

Your sleep cycle is not consistent, and not all sleep cycles are the same. The first stage of sleep is Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM), then for a shorter period comes Rapid Eye Movement (REM), and then the sleep cycle starts over again. 

What is non-REM?

The Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep cycle has three further stages. Each phase duration is from 5 to 15 minutes. We must all go through all three stages to enter into Rapid Eye Movement (REM):

  • Stage 1 or N1: The first stage of NREM lasts for 5 to 10 minutes. In this stage, your eyes are closed, but it’s easy to wake you. 
  • Stage 2 or N2: This phase lasts for 10 to 25 minutes. In this stage, you are still in light sleep. Your body is preparing to go into a deep sleep as your heart rate slows down and your body temperature drops. 
  • Stage 3 or N3: This is the last stage of Non-REM. In this stage, your body is in a deep sleep. It’s hard to wake you up at this stage, and even if you wake up, you will feel lost, or out of sorts for some time. This stage lasts for 20 to 40 minutes.

What is rapid eye movement (REM)?

You go into REM almost 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The first stage of REM lasts for 10 minutes, but later stages last for longer. Your REM stages can last for up to one hour.

In REM, your brain is active. Your heart rate and breathing speed up as you have intense dreams in this stage. 

How can you enjoy better quality sleep?

Research shows that good sleep is important for your hormones, exercise performance, and brain function. 

People who do not regularly get a full night’s sleep tend to gain weight more easily, and have an increased risk of some diseases. A good night’s sleep means you complete all the sleep cycle in one go.

Every stage of sleep is important. During the NREM stage, your body regrows and repair tissues, reinforces your immune system, and builds bones and muscles. The REM stage, meanwhile is associated with the increased production of protein. 

Here are some tips to help you get a good night’s sleep.

1) Sync with your circadian rhythm

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. One of the successful and most common strategies to get better sleep is to sync with your sleep-wake cycle. You can sync to your circadian cycle if you:

  • Increase your exposure to sunlight or bright light during the daytime. The sunlight can improve your energy in the day so you can have a quality sleep at night. It also helps in keeping the sleep-wake cycle healthy.
  • Sleep and get up at the same time every day. It will help to set up your body’s internal clock, and you will feel sleepy at the time you sleep daily and will wake at the same time you wake up every day without any alarm clock.
  • If you face a hard time sleeping at night, avoid nap in the daytime and if you want to nap, then nap in the early afternoon, not more than 15 to 20 minutes.

2) Limit your exposure to blue light

Avoid exposure to blue light, especially one to two hours before bedtime. The blue light emitting from electronic gadgets like TV, mobile and tablets, etc, can contribute to sleep disruption. Keeping your bedroom free of devices is one increasingly popular way that people are improving their sleep environment in order to improve the quality of sleep they get and reduce the likelihood of sleep disorders causing problems.

3) Exercise daily

Try to get some exercise every day – even if it’s just going out for a short walk at lunchtime. People who do exercise daily feel active in the daytime and have a better sleep at night.

4) Ensure you have the right size pillow

Use a neutral pillow that feels comfortable and offers the right level of support. A pillow that is too stiff pillow won’t help you to get a good night’s sleep, nor will one that is too flat, or too fat. Find your ‘goldilocks’ pillow that is just right.

5) Watch what you eat

And finally, it’s important to watch what you eat in the evenings. Try to eat earlier, rather than later so your body is not digesting a large meal when you are trying to sleep. But equally, don’t go to bed hungry. A slice of wholemeal toast can be a good evening snack if you’re feeling peckish.