Sleep is vital to performing at our best. If we don’t get adequate sleep, it can lead to increased stress, anxiety, weight gain, and other health issues.
In order for our bodies to heal and our brains to process the day, we need to have good quality sleep.
There are a few measures of sleep quality. There’s sleep onset, or the time it takes you to fall asleep. There’s sleep maintenance, or staying asleep throughout the night. Then there are the stages of sleep – the two stages we’re most interested in for aiding in stress are stage 3 deep sleep, and REM sleep, otherwise known as “dreaming sleep.”
Stage 3 sleep is the sleep where the body does its greatest healing work, repairing tissues and clearing out waste while the various systems are powered down for the night. When we don’t get stage 4 sleep, the level of physical stress increases, as the body tissues are not at their best.
REM or dreaming sleep is the time when the brain processes the day and tries to make sense of everything in our reality. Ever had nightmares when you’ve been going through a tough time? That’s typically your brain’s way of working through it all.
When we don’t get sufficient REM sleep, our brains don’t process through all of the demands of the previous day, and it piles up over time, making us feel overwhelmed, unable to concentrate and unable to perform at our best.
Sleep is broken down into cycles that last approximately 90 minutes. We start in stage one sleep, progress down through stage two and then hit stage three. After a period of time in stage three, we rise back up to REM sleep, before the cycle begins again.
The length of time for each stage depends on the state of the body and outside stimuli, but generally speaking the REM stage is initially around 10 minutes, lengthening with each cycle until it hits around 1 hour in length.
Ideally we should be getting at least 4, but preferably 5 to 6 sleep cycles in each night for maximum body healing and brain clearing, and even more if we’re ill or injured. Waking during the night would be minimal if at all, and we would wake up feeling refreshed, without fatigue or grogginess.
But when you’re under stress, the likelihood of being able to achieve all of these every night is not very high – which is why I’ve put together these tips to give you a better night’s sleep.
Sleep is important for healing as well as physical and mental well being. But how can we get better quality sleep?
Sleep hygiene is all about making it as easy on your body as possible to get to sleep.
Light is not your friend when it comes to deep sleep.
TVs, computers, phones that flash with notifications in the night, streetlights, plugged in appliances, they can all trigger you to wake up when you are in a lighter stage of sleep.
Even putting your iPhone in “evening mode,” is not recommended.
This makes it harder for you to reach a healing stage of sleep.
So in the bedroom, switch off whatever you can at the wall as part of your night routine. If it’s something you can’t reach the plug for, consider putting something over the light source to block it.
Noise can also be disturbing when it comes to getting into the deeper stages of sleep. If you must have a TV in your room, make sure you can set a timer on it so it turns off after an hour or so.
Better yet, lose the TV in the bedroom altogether – many sleep experts say that your bedroom should be used for sleep and sex, nothing else.
Temperature in the bedroom can play a big role in getting good sleep – heat in particular can prevent the body from getting into the deeper stages of sleep. If you have climate control in your house, try to make sure that at night the temperature is set to no more than around 65°F (17°C).
This is one of the reasons that some studies have recommended sleeping nude; it reduces your body temperature.
Lastly, putting your phone on airplane mode will prevent you from being awoken by a flashing phone or checking your notifications in the middle of the night.
We’ve all done it, and I’m guilty of it… but it’s not a great habit when it comes to quality sleep.
If after sleeping for seven to eight hours you still don’t feel well-rested on a regular basis, I recommend that you speak with your primary care physician about conducting a sleep study. Also, if you sleep in bed with someone and they tell you that you snore on a regular basis, this is not something you can ignore! Please speak to your doctor and get it checked out.
So pour yourself a cup of chamomile tea, take a warm bath, put on that Kenny G Christmas CD and get yourself some quality sleep!
If you think that something is causing you to not perform at your best – let’s talk. My initial client consultations are complimentary, and last 30 minutes. They are typically done over the phone, FaceTime, or Skype.