Nearly everyone is struggling to meet the demands of modern life. For some, cutting back on sleep seems like the only solution because they need to manage a hectic schedule at the expense of sufficient rest and recreation. Having eight hours of sleep really sounds great, but how many people can really afford to spend so much time sleeping? Many adults today spend more time working or extending their sleep time to catch up on an activity related to entertainment (Netflix binge watching, Snapchat or Call of Duty maybe?) and only get a few hours of slumber, and they tend to forget the importance of sleep. Sleep has different cycles and stages, and each can restore and refresh your body and mind. Even minimal sleep loss may affect your energy, mood, efficiency, and ability to manage stress. If you want to stay healthy, or you want to be in your best form, you shouldn’t consider sleep as luxury. Sleep belongs to physical and physiological needs and people should know more about its importance. During the duration of your sleeping period, you pass through several sleep cycle stages. These stages are repeated several times throughout the course of your sleep.
- Stage one:
Stage one is considered the drowsy stage. This is the stage that usually only last for a few minutes. It is your body’s way of telling you that you are tired and should get some rest or sleep. This is also the part that most people constantly and consistently attempt to fight off. This stage is commonly associated with the quick eye movements. At this point, you’re easily awakened, by loud noises, flashing lights, or other distractions. Your eyelids flutter, and your heart rate and breathing begins to slow as you begin to drift in and out of sleep. In order to optimize your stage one entry, pay attention to the details of your sleep environment. Is your room too warm? Are those sheets retaining too much heat? Maybe your room is too cold. Mobile phones tend to have that tiny notification light that can continuously stay blinking throughout the night. While the light emitted by that notification light may seem tiny, it can very well disrupt your sleep at stage one. Investing in blackout curtains, eliminating light sources from bright alarms clocks and notification lights is possibly the best way you can prevent disruption of your sleep at stage one.
- Stage Two: Light sleep:
Stage two is considered the light sleep stage. This is when the body slows functions such as heart rate and eye movements. It also is the stage that lowers the overall body temperature. This is why most people feel cold when they first wake up. After about 10 minutes, you might have a hypnic jerk- the sudden feeling of falling that wakes you up, but soon you’ll drift into the second stage. Most of the night, 45% is spent in this stage. Think of stage two as good nap; you’re sleep, and won’t be aware of most distractions, but you can still get up easily. You feel refreshed, energized after a good nap. But your body needs more sleep than just naps, and so you then fall into deep sleep in the following stages. If you ever invested in a sleep tracking device and are a constant bedtime procrastinator or face issues related to insomnia, you would most likely see significant time spent in either stages 1 or 2 leading to an overall general fatigue. I recommend the use of the sleep cycle app which has worked well for me and clients for allowing alarms to trigger only when you are in the first two lighter phases of sleep. I also recommend using an older mobile phone that is not in use to run an app like sleep cycle. This way you can use the phone only as an alarm and leave it in flight mode, preventing notifications from popping up regularly to disrupt your sleep. Having a live cellphone in bed with you for running this app is not good for you due to the radiation associated with connected cellphones. Using an older cellphone in flight mode eliminates these problems. If you want to get really serious about tracking, use a fitness tracker. Apple, Jawbone & Fitbit have watches or trackers that feature sleep tracking to quite a detailed level. Analyzing the graphs showing your sleep stages will actually highlight trends that you can then improve upon. In my case for instance, I noticed my Monday’s featuring lighter sleep than usual on my Fitbit dashboard. I worked backwards and figured out that I was delaying my sleep time by around 30 minutes on the previous Sunday. If you delve into the data provided by these devices, you might actually figure out a pretty interesting insight.
- Stage Three: Deep sleep:
Stage three is the deep sleep stage and stage four is also associated with this too. This occurs about an hour after being in stage two. A normal person may have three or more of these stages per night and will fluctuate between stages two and three or four throughout the night, or day if you are one that works through the night. This is the stage that does the most good for the body. This stage helps the body to get proper rest by eliminating stress. This is the stage that aids in the retention of many memories. This is also the stage that begins to rise a body’s blood pressure. If you workout and are looking to build muscle and lose weight, ensuring enough stage 3 sleep is one of those easy to ignore concepts that people often overlook after focusing only on diet and workout.
- Stage Four:
This is the last stage of sleep, and at this stage, you’re fast, fast asleep. You can be woken up, but you’ll be groggy and slow. If you wake up at this point, you’ll likely hit the snooze button once or twice, vigorously rub your eyes and drink several cups of coffee. Yet another reason for me to recommend moving away from traditional alarm clocks and moving to smarter ones like Sleep Cycle or a fitness band/watch with sleep tracking features. A further advantage of a sleep tracking band is a common feature for allowing you to be silently woken up through a vibration on your wrist which is more gentle than a blaring alarm from your phone. Using a sleep tracker to wake you up in the right stage of sleep with a gentle vibration or tapping on your wrist will go a long way in improving your energy levels through the day. Though stage four is the last stage of sleep, but it’s hardly then end of your sleep journey. You’ll backtrack a little, first to stage three, and then to stage two, but then something miraculous happens. After revisiting stage two, you make the jump to the best part of the journey: dreaming.
- REM Sleep:
REM sleep is considered the dream stage. This is why many folks do not remember their dreams. Because the dream stage is directly before the deep stage. It is the deep stage that is more associated with the memory, therefore, the dream stage is basically forgotten by the time deep sleep is entered. However, if one does remember a dream, it is most likely that they were woken up during the dream stage or stage two.
Through the rest of the night you continue to cycle through stages II, III and IV of unconscious sleep, then back into dreaming with Rapid Eye Movement three to four more times. With each cycle of sleep, as you move into deeper sleep your brain releases surges of human growth hormone to restore and repair my body. This is followed by more dreaming, helping your brain to integrate your recent experiences into memory and knowledge.