Sleep forms the third pillar of our health, the other two being exercise and nutrition. We spend one-third of our life sleeping, and ironically we know very little about it. So let’s find out what makes a healthy sleep cycle and how to maintain it in your life:
In the early times, people believed that their brains ‘shut down’ as they entered a passive phase, a state which enabled them to recover from the tiredness and stress of the previous day. They called it ‘sleep’.
Although, in the modern day world, we understand that there’s so much more to this ‘state’ than we know. It’s rather way more active than we think it is — sleep drives the subconscious mind.
In a nutshell, when you’re sleeping, your brain goes through some patterns of activity. It forms a cycle in day-to-day activities and has two distinct components: Rapid Eye Movement Cycle (REM) or Non-Rapid Eye Movement Cycle (NREM).
Stages In The Sleep Cycle
1st Stage Of Your Sleep Cycle
It depends on how drowsy or tired you are. You can slip into this stage within minutes or even seconds! When you start dozing off, your brain tends to produce alpha and theta waves that make your eye movements slower.
This first introductory drift into sleep is comparatively brief. It all happens within a short span of 5-8 minutes.
But here’s the kicker, even though you’re nodding off, you’re still somewhat alert, and it would be easy to wake you up.
People experience ‘catnaps’ during this stage too. It is wonderful how our brain slowly moves to ‘sleep mode’.
2nd Stage Of Your Sleep Cycle
Like the first stage, the second one is also pretty light. During this stage, the brain produces a suddenly increased amount of brain wave frequencies called sleep spindles. Eventually, the brain waves slow down. This is the stage where you get ‘power naps’ – if you wake up after 25-40 minutes.
3rd And 4th Stages Of Your Sleep Cycle
This stage is the establishment of deep sleep. As the brain drifts deeper and deeper into subconsciousness, it starts to produce slower delta waves. In this stage, you’re most unlikely to bear the occurrence of an eye movement or any muscle activity. It somehow becomes a bit harder for you to be awakened. This is crazy!
It happens because your body becomes less receptive to external stimuli. The brain furthermore produces more delta waves to have you move into a deeper and more healing stage of the sleep cycle.
Waking in the middle of this stage is very difficult. It happens during this stage because the body repairs its muscles and tissues. It also inhibits growth and development, powers the immune system and makes up energy for the next conscious phase.
Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM)
his stage normally dominates after the first 90 minutes of initial sleep drifting. Each REM stage can last up to an hour or even more. It’s important for an adult to have at least five to six hours of REM sleep. In this stage, the brain is more active compared to any other stage.
During this stage, you dream and your eyes tend to jerk in different directions, your blood pressure and heart rate increases, and even your breathing becomes shallow fast and loses regularity.
You might be wondering it’s alike for infants and adults, well the answer is NO.
These phases last for different durations in different age groups. An infant’s sleep cycle will be entirely different from yours. When you’re sleeping, you sequentially move from stage to stage. It is also important to note that the non-REM sleep typically occurs in the night. Also, that REM hours increase as the night goes, and that is why you usually wake up from a dream in the morning. Isn’t it amazing?
Now that you know about sleep cycle let’s find out how to have a healthy sleep cycle.
How A Sleep Cycle Affects Your Life?
If you’re looking for an answer to this question, you’re most probably being affected by it. The customary thing to do is to wake up in the morning and sleep at night. But after the industrial age, with night shifts becoming a part of the job requirements, sleep cycles have altered.
In today’s Information age, there isn’t any particular time to do one’s job, and we start feeling the effects of a bad sleep cycle.
Your lifestyle is pretty much dependent on your sleep cycle, as it, in turn, affects everything else from eating habits to digestive system and metabolism. Getting a good night’s sleep every time is vital to your whole health and contentment.
Most of us know when we lose some hours of sleep, we wake up often still feeling tired and irritable. We also tend to experience difficulty in concentration, staying alert, and having a positive mood and approach towards daily life. All of this can happen if you only lose one day of good sleep. If you’re regularly losing your sleep hours, you’re exposing yourself to a big list of medical conditions and health issues.
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?
There’s no correct answer to it even if you filter it down from an average sleep that an average human being needs to how much sleep people from a particular profession, and age group needs. In fact, it varies for the same person based on various factors like age, occupation, diet, and the current state of health.
With age, you tend to do fine with less amount of sleep. You might have heard of a few professionals sleeping as less as 4 hours. The reason for this behavior is that as we grow old, we tend to become stagnant. We do less work, and it takes less time for our body to heal itself.
It also depends on how healthy you are. If you’re wounded, your body requires more energy to heal, and consequently leaves your body in a tired state where you feel more like sleeping. Sleep can be closely associated with tiredness. The more tired you are, the more likely it is that you will feel sleepy.
There’s no ground rule of how much sleep you need to have. We ask this question because we have so much to do and it feels like time isn’t enough. The hours in a day aren’t enough. So we tend to cut out on sleep.
But still, why do we ask this question?
It’s because we are health conscious and some of the advertising companies have managed to use some scientific research conducted on a specific set of people and distort it beyond all proportions to make us feel like we need a said amount of sleep. But there’s no such thing.
Your body is the greatest indicator of how much sleep you need, and it will give you all sorts of signals. You must learn to understand and apply them the right way to undergo sleep.
By considering the average sleep a person needs, it is divided into categories according to age groups:
- Infants need the most sleep — up to 12-15 hours a day
- Children with age group 3-5 need 10-13 hours a day sleep while those of age group 6-13 need at least 9-10 hours of sleep
- In the teenage years, a sleep of 10-14 hours is said to be optimum
- Whereas adults can do with 7-9 hours of sleep
The Basics Of Good Sleep: Learn To Sleep Better
Here’s The Deal
You must know that your quality and hours of sleep directly affects your mental and physical health. It has the power to enhance or reduce the quality of your conscious life. Having less sleep can result in adverse effects like a decrease in energy, productivity, and emotional balance. It also affects your weight and metabolism. Having a good night’s sleep is really essential.
It Gets Better/Worse
Making straightforward and uncomplicated amendments to your daily life routine and bedtime habits will have a substantial impact on your lifestyle. It can change how good you sleep, the way your brain works makes you more emotionally unbiased and ensures you have an abundance of energy throughout the day.
5 Hacks For Better Sleep
Don’t Stay Awake Late At Night
There’s no way you can expect to have a good sleep if you’re up till 2 am in the morning, yes morning. Unhealthy sleep routine habits and lifestyle choices will result in you tossing and turning around at nights. Furthermore, it adversely affects your mood, brain, and heart health too.
Sleep And Wake Up At The Same Time Every Day
This habit will help you set the internal clock of your body. It will also optimize the quality of your sleep. All you need to do is select a bedtime when you know you’ll be tired and fix it for every day.
If you’re getting enough sleep at nights, you will get up naturally in the morning without an alarm. Sleeping at regular intervals is great for your mind consciousness and energy.
Try Not To Sleep On The Couch
It’s really tempting to just snooze off on your couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but you must avoid doing that. The more your end of the week sleeping schedule differs, the ‘worse the jet-lag-like symptoms’ you tend to experience.
If you’re trying to compensate a late night at work or night out, it’s better to try napping rather than sleeping. It will enable you to get on with your sleep without actually troubling the natural routine of your sleep rhythm.
Learn To Be Smart About Napping
Napping is the best way to make up for the hours of sleep you’ve lost somehow. Although, you must know that if you’re having trouble in sleeping soundly at night, napping can probably make it a bit worse.
It’s only advisable to nap when your daily sleep routine is in great sync. The best interval for a nap is about 15-20 minutes and the best time is in the afternoon.
Don’t Give Into After Meal Drowsiness
If you feel sleepy after your afternoon or night meal, here’s the kicker: you’re not alone. It is pretty normal to feel the need to sleep after consumption of food, but you should not give in to this temptation.
The best way to fight it – get on your feet. You can have yourself occupied in doing dishes or calling a friend or just taking your dog out for a walk. Do anything that is mildly stimulating for your brain.
If you give in and sleep at irregular timings, you might have yourself waking up in the middle of the night and not knowing what to do about it.
The Secret About Exposure To Light
Not many people are aware of this, but there is a substance in your body called Melatonin. It is a natural occurrence found in your body. Specifically, it is a hormone that is controlled by light exposure. And here’s the deal: it helps you regulate your sleep-wake cycle. The good news is you can manipulate your exposure to light.
During The Day
Give Yourself Adequate Sunlight
The trick is to expose yourself to good sunlight. It is better if it starts right when you wake up. It is always good to drink your coffee or tea outside. It is even better if you decide to have your breakfast by the sunny window. With the sun rays on your face, your skin and body will wake up and be ready for a great day ahead.
Spend More Time Outside During Daylight
Spending some of your time outside, under the sun is always good for your sleep cycle. What you can do is have your work breaks outside, under the sunlight. You can also exercise outside, or you can also take your dog for a walk during the day instead of just at night.
Welcome Natural Light Into Your Home/Workspace
It’s really healthy to let in sunlight into your home or workspace. You can keep the windows open or keep curtains and blinds aside during the day. Also, you can move your desk or workspace closer to where you have ample of sunlight.
If Necessary, Use A Light Therapy Box
Light therapy boxes are great instruments with beneficial effects on your mind and body. They can help you with an effective treatment for ‘seasonal affective disorder.’ They simulate the sunshine and are really useful during winters when the days are short.
During The Night
Avoid Bright Screens When Your Bedtime Approaches
Do you know that the blue light remittance through your smartphone, tablet, computer screen or flat TV, in particular, is really unsettling? You can always decrease the impact by using devices with comparatively smaller screens. One of the solutions to this is turning down the brightness. You can also use software that can alter light.
A Big NO To Television At Night
The light from television screen suppresses melatonin. Also, one cannot neglect the fact that most of the shows on television are stimulating rather than relaxing which in turn affects your brain function. You can listen to audiobooks or some soothing music instead.
No Reading With Backlit Devices
Devices like mobile phones and tablets that are usually backlit are more trouble making than the e-readers. They don’t have any light source of their own. It is better to use these instead of backlit devices, which can damage or hurt your eyes.
Sleep In A Dark Room
It’s important to make sure that you sleep in a dark room with little or no light at all. You can use heavy curtains/shades to obstruct external light from windows. A better way is to try a sleep mask. You can also cover up the electronics that have light remittance.
Keep The Lights Low
If you require some light to walk around safely in the middle of the night, try fixing a dim light in the restroom or hall or use a flashlight. It will make it simple for you to sleep soundly.
Adding Exercise To Your Routine For A Better Sleep
A survey says that people who do exercise regularly have a better sleep at night. They also feel not as sleepy during the day time either. You may also take this survey here. Exercising regularly also improves the condition of insomnia and sleep apnea. It tends to increase the overall duration you spend in the deep, restoring stages of sleep.
- The benefits of exercise depend on the extent of your exercising routine. The more sweat you lose, the better sleep you’re most likely to get. Even with small exercises like walking, brisk walking or jogging for just a few minutes in a day, you can really improve the quality of your sleep.
- It will take some months of constant exercise activity before you will experience the complete sleep-promoting effects. It’s essential to be patient and concentrate on building an exercise routine that you can stick with.
Exercise revs up your internal metabolism, heightens body temperature, and increases hormone levels like cortisol. It isn’t an issue if you’re working out in the early morning or late in the afternoon, but too near to bedtime, and it can affect your sleep.
Try to do moderate to heavy workouts at least three to four hours before you sleep. If you’re still experiencing issues, shift your exercise even earlier. Low-impact workouts like yoga or mild stretching exercise in the evening times can promote sleep.
Sleep Environment And Best Practices
Sleep environment has a great impact on the quality of your sleep.
Connect Your Bedroom Space With Sleep And Sex
These should be the only things taking place in your bedroom. Doing other things in your bedroom like watching television, listening to music, radio or browsing internet can really hamper with the bedroom peace. Things like talking with your spouse about memorable life events could stimulate your brain and shouldn’t be undergone in the bedroom. Having stimulating activities or conversation inside the bedroom will affect your sleep and keep you engaged.
Keep The Electronics Out
All electronic devices like TVs, laptops, tablets, gaming systems, cell phones, and e-readers have to be abandoned before your scheduled bedtime. To provide you with a reason, the incorporation of these devices may be really stimulating and keep you stay awake as you tell yourself you’d play one more game or listen to just one more song on the phone.
To add more to this, the light rays emitting through these devices is identical in wavelength to daylight and can fool your circadian rhythm into believing it’s morning and slow the release of melatonin hormone that helps you sleep.
Keep It Quiet
Noise can let you stay awake, so ensure that your bedroom is free of any redundant sounds. You might not be able to sleep due to noisy neighbors or other factors in the house, this could turn out be a major problem, but now we have the technology for it. Do consider ear plugs to obstruct the sound or you may consider ‘white noise’.
Keep It Cool
When you go to sleep, your body’s temperature automatically drops. It happens because your body is preparing for sleep and rejuvenation. Keeping your room cool can help in the course of the sleeping process.
Make Your Sleeping Space Comfortable – Beds & Mattresses
Over 90% Americans indicated a good quality mattress and pillow is vital for a restful sleep. The mattresses you sleep on are only useful for about nine to ten years. If your mattress is out of date or feels painful, sore and uncomfortable on your back, getting a brand new mattress can help you get a proper sleep. The cause of your sleep disturbance could also be an overused pillow or bedding. If you have to continuously re-adjust your pillow and sheets before sleep time, it may be the right time to get a brand new one.
What Are The Different Ways To Sleep?
We all sleep in different positions, and these may or may not be good for your sleep. Let’s find out about them here:
Numerous medical professionals would recommend sleeping on your back. It is the most appropriate sleeping position. It helps with your back flat aligned with the bed which can help perk up the spines placement and neck health.
This sleeping position is really ideal and right for the people with sleep apnea and snoring problems. This position opens up the airway and prevents breathing problems. But it is not ideal for people who are overweight as it can thicken the lungs and stomach.
People who sleep on their side or ‘in a fetal position’ have a better sleep cycle than the ones who sleep on their backs. This is one of the most widely used sleeping positions around the world.
How Can De-Cluttering Enhance Your Sleep And Mental Health?
It’s not a rare thing to be guilty of owning an unclean home filled with clutter; believe me when I say that you’re not alone. Have you ever felt like the clutter and disturbance at your home are personifying itself as the chaos in your brain? It’s essential to know that the clutter and materialistic mess can give anxiety and unwanted stress.
A recent study unveiled that 50% people could have lived more satisfyingly without most of the things they have. As human beings, we love to own things, and obviously, the more of them we have, the more disorganized it gets and the more curious, depressed, and unhappy we feel.
Researchers say when you reach home to find stuff left to be done, it may avert the typical decline in cortisol that happens throughout the day.
All of this affects your sleep cycle, body, and mood. It could also lead to having mood swings. It’s important to take the time out to tackle with laundry that has been there for days, check through papers lying here and there, and clean up your living space.
You’ll eventually end up having better quality of sleep and start being more happy and relaxed.
The Science Behind It
Clutter and mess smother our minds with unrestrained stimuli thus leading the senses to function overtime on reactions that aren’t even necessary. It turns us uneasy because we can never be sure how long it takes to clear the mess.
Disorganized places also create feelings of self-reproach and inhibit our creativity and efficiency. The best way to keep your mind relaxed and calm is to know and imply that getting rid of clutter will make you less stressful and help you sleep better.
- Dejunk Your Home Now: The best way to start with this is to list down the things you really need in your home and things you don’t need. Clarifying and separating them in a list will make your task easier. Now, move to cupboards, shelves, and cabinets. Take out everything that you don’t use on a regular basis like twice in a month and put it in a box. You can safely store these boxes in a closet, which also means that you have to ensure that your closet is neat and tidy already. The extra stuff that you don’t need can be donated. It brings you mental peace along with inner peace! Is there anything better?
- Stop Buying Things You Aren’t Going To Use: It happens with a lot of us – we buy things that we think might be useful. We think if it’s not useful now, maybe it will be useful later. . But hey, let’s get real. That may or may not happen. Make sure you don’t buy excess items that will only fill up space in your home.
- Embrace The Empty Space At Your Home: Does it happen with you that you’re inclined towards filling up an empty spot? More or less like, ‘there’s a place near the window, let’s put a plant pot there.’ Don’t do it. Look to it that you’ve ample of space. You need to let the interiors have a breathing space.
How Does It Help You Sleep Better?
Keeping yourself clean can also play a big role in making sure you get good sleep every night. A recent study suggests the pile of stuff in your bedroom can cause stress to you, although you might not realize it. It will cause you to give up on good sleep. To fight it, use the spring-cleaning season of the year to clean your room and make it into a tidy and clutter-free space.
Aside from cleaning, stay organized by making up your bed daily. As per Reader’s Digest, those who make up their bed daily before sleeping have a better night than those who don’t do it.
Now for the conclusion, let’s make it the easiest for you to understand that getting rid of clutter will make you less stressful. It will eventually make your life better in all aspects and will improve your mental and physical health conditions as well.
In conclusion, let’s just make a point that a clean home is an effective mood booster. Keep that in perspective, the next time you’re dealing with dirt or giving your cupboards a thorough clean. An untidy and chaotic home can be dangerous for your mind, heart and overall lifestyle, but we guess you know it pretty well now.
How Stress Affects Your Sleep And What To Do About It
Stress in our everyday lives can have a terrible impact on the quality of sleep we get. We all experience it, whether it’s due to our work schedule, our personal lives or sometimes while driving a car in heavy traffic. Stress sometimes seems unavoidable, but that doesn’t indicate we just go with the flow. It can take a terrible toll on our life — especially getting those Zzs.
Stress can have a serious toll on your sleep cycle. First and most important, it can keep you from maintaining a proper sleep consistency which is really important. According to the APA survey in America, 43% of grown up people say that stress leads them to stay awake at night, and over 50% of adults indicated feeling low after having a little sleep at night.
Not only stress messes up with your quality sleep, but it can also make you prone to insomnia. It technically sends your brain into an overdrive which further prevents your brain from going into the snooze mode.
What Can You Do To Sleep Better?
- Keep lavender by your side. Studies have shown that smelling lavender soothes your mind and helps you fall asleep faster
- Practicing relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation will also help you sleep soundly. It calms your mind and puts your body at ease
- Take deep breaths and drive out all the negative energy. The inhaling and exhaling initiate your body’s ‘naturally-calming parasympathetic system’.
- Discard all the negative thoughts from your mind and prepare yourself for a sound sleep. A clear mind is more open to a better sleep
Yoga/Meditation Will Relieve Your Stress
Mornings are the most important part of your day. If you start your day right, you’ll be at your best for the rest of your day and also have the best sleep ever. Here are three morning rituals you should try for a better quality sleep.
Start Your Day With Lukewarm Water, Lemon, And Honey
This combination will be both soul and body enhancing. It will help increase your metabolism rate which in turn will make sure you don’t accumulate excess fat. This mix will help you stay and feel light throughout the day and have a good night’s sleep at night time.
Exercising And Yoga/Meditation:
Some people might see this as a mammoth task, but that is only because your body is feeling lethargic. It usually happens when you have excess fat in your body. It’s time to fight your laziness and follow what your body actually needs! A good 20-30 minutes of exercise will help you reduce stress and build immunity.
Yoga is one of the best aids to a conflicted mind. Start your mornings practicing Beginner’s Yoga positions like Mountain Pose, Plank, Triangle, Tree and Bridge Pose for a healthier lifestyle. Those who have a commitment problem towards physical exertions right at the start of the day may try meditation. It will help cleanse your body energy and make you mentally ready for the day ahead.
List Down Your Tasks For The Day
Most people are unhappy with themselves because they are not able to achieve what they wanted to do. Let’s consider one day at a time now. Writing down your tasks or goals will manage your time and help complete them in time, within the day. Be honest with yourself and try this, it will turn your life around.
What To Eat And What Not To Eat In The Evening To Sleep Better – Restless Vs Restful
Caffeine And Nicotine
The effects of caffeine can last up to almost 12 hours after the consumption! Likewise, smoking which involves nicotine is yet another stimulant that can spoil your sleep, especially when you decide to smoke close to your bedtime.
You must try and make your dinner time as early as possible in the evening, mostly around 7 pm. Also, you should avoid heavy items to eat within 2 hours of bedtime. Spicy or acidic products can cause some serious stomach trouble and heartburn if you sleep while they’re in your stomach and not digested.
Even though booze might help you relax and fall asleep, it interferes with your sleep stages once you’ve dozed off.
Sugary Foods And Refined Carbs
You must refrain from eating a lot of sugar and refined carbs. These include food items such as white bread, white rice, and pasta. These have the potential to trigger wakefulness at night and keep from the restorative stages of sleep that help growth and rejuvenation.
What Are The Superfoods For Having A Good Night Sleep?
For a few people, a little snack right before bed can help initiate sleep. These include half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, milk/yogurt and a banana.
You may also try lean proteins. It includes chicken, cheese low in fat, fish, and turkey. These foods consist high amounts of the amino-acid tryptophan, which can improve serotonin levels. However, avoid heavy cheese, deep-fried fish, and wings. These foods take more time to digest and can keep you away from sleeping.
Having Consistency In Your Sleep Cycles
It’s important to know the value of having consistency in your sleep as explained in one of the points above. The repetitive cycle of sleep will help you get your mental and physical health on point. This happens because your sleep cycle directly affects your growth and development. The more synchronized your sleeping pattern gets, better the effect it has on your metabolism and conscious brain.
Sleeping in consistency also makes your life systematic and sorted out. You’ll be a lot less devoid of stress and tension.
It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to say that a proper sleep cycle can turn your life for good!