Are you aware of the importance of sleep for your health? Getting enough sleep really does matter. What’s also important, though, is getting enough of the right kind of sleep.
There are basically two kinds of sleep: Non-REM sleep and REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement.
Let’s now take a closer look at the various stages of sleep and discuss the importance of sleep for your health in more detail …
The importance of sleep for your health
Non-REM sleep has three phases, each of which is a deeper sleep than the previous stage.
The first phase, which is known as Stage N1, is when you are first going to sleep and is also known as the “transition to sleep”.
This phase only lasts for about five minutes. During this stage you are easily woken.
The second stage of Non-REM sleep is Stage N2, the light sleep phase, which lasts for somewhere between ten minutes and half an hour.
This is where you are first truly asleep as your eyes stop moving under the eyelids and your heart slows down, while your body temperature drops.
The final stage of Non-REM sleep, Stage N3, is the deep sleep phase where you are not easily woken. Even if you do wake up, you are usually disoriented and not sure where you are for a while.
During this deep sleep stage, blood flows away from your brain to your muscles to restore their energy, and your brain slows down.
During REM sleep, as the name suggests, your eyes dart around rapidly behind your eyelids as you dream.
You enter this stage of sleep somewhere between seventy minutes to an hour and a half after first falling asleep.
During this stage your heart rate goes up, as does your blood pressure. Your breathing becomes much more shallow, and you cannot move your legs and arms.
The importance of deep sleep and REM sleep
The deep sleep phase, phase N3 of non-REM sleep, is when your body renews and repairs itself and builds the energy you will need for the day ahead. For this reason, it is very important that you get enough of this kind of sleep.
Likewise, REM sleep is when your mind is refreshed and plays an important role in memory and learning.
Length of sleep
The length of time that you sleep for each night is important. Adults should aim to get at least seven to eight hours a night.
If you don’t get this amount of sleep, you run the risk of becoming sleep deprived.
And you can easily be suffering from sleep deprivation without even being aware of it, as the signs aren’t necessarily obvious and you can become used to feeling tired and sleepy so that it becomes normal to you.
How to improve your sleep
There are a number of steps you can take to help improve the quality of sleep that you get each night. Here are a few tips:
- Physical exercise can improve your sleep as long as it is done at the right time. It can help you to go to sleep more quickly and to sleep more deeply once you are asleep. You should try not to exercise for at least three hours before you go to bed.
- Avoid caffeine for at least four hours before you go to bed. Caffeine is a stimulant that will stop you going to sleep. Nicotine is also a stimulant that should be avoided.
- Also avoid eating too much before you go to bed. If you must eat later in the evening, try to stick to light snacks. On the flip side, it’s also important that you don’t go to bed feeling hungry.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. In this way, your body clock will get used to it and you will find it easier to fall asleep at night.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. While it’s true that alcohol can help you to feel sleepy initially, it’s likely to lead to sleep disruption later on.
- Lowering the lights a couple of hours before you go to bed will tell your brain to start getting ready to go to sleep.
- Make sure you’re relaxed when you got to bed. Try meditating or listening to calm, relaxing music if you’re feeling a bit stressed.
- Turn off your mobile and/or tablet and leave it out of reach. Don’t be tempted to read your phone in bed as this will affect how well you sleep.
Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep for your health. Getting the right amount of sleep matters, but so does getting the right type of sleep.