Updated: Jun 14, 2021
Quality sleep and maintaining a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand. The natural phenomenon known as ‘sleep’ can aid people in their fight against the negative effects of stress more effectively, allowing the body to rejuvenate, both physically and mentally, and prepare for the next day.
THE SLEEP CYCLE
There are different stages of sleep:
Non-rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
NREM sleep is divided into four stages, as follows:
Stage 1: Basically, an introduction to sleep where you are somewhat alert and able to wake up rather easily. Stage 1 is brief, lasting up to seven minutes for most people.
Stage 2: This is also relatively light sleep in which the brain waves begin to slow down.
Stages 3 and 4: These stages within the cycle involve deep sleep. It is during deep sleep the body repairs itself through tissue regeneration, and bone and muscle building.
REM sleep occurs in cycles throughout the night, with the first cycle occurring roughly 90 minutes after falling asleep. This cycle typically lasts up to an hour, with the average adult experiencing five to six REM cycles each night. During REM sleep, your brain processes information from the day for storage into your long-term memory.
Sleep plays an important role in the body's hormone regulation, which can influence appetite and stress levels. This explains the relationship between poor sleep quality and the increased risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Sleep quality affects mental and emotional health. Poor quality of sleep may cause a person to become weary and irritated during the day, making them vulnerable to the negative effects of stress. We have all "woken up on the wrong side of the bed" when we do not get adequate sleep.
WAYS TO IMPROVE SLEEP
“Sleep Hygiene” is a group of behaviors performed to aid in achieving a good night of sleep and improve your overall quality of sleep.
Below are some sleep hygiene tips from the American Sleep Association:
Maintain a regular sleep routine.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (or at least as often as possible).
Avoid naps if possible.
Taking naps outside of the regular sleep routine make it difficult to fall asleep and may cause sleep fragmentation.
Do not stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes.
If you find your mind racing and are not able to sleep, get out of bed and sit in a chair in the dark. Let your mind race while in the chair, then go back to bed when you feel tired.
Do not watch TV or read in bed.
These activities can associate the bed with wakefulness.
The bed should only be used for two things - sleep and intimacy.
Be aware of caffeine consumption and time thereof.
Do not consume caffeine within eight hours before bedtime. This means if you go to bed at 10 p.m., avoid caffeine after 2 p.m.
Avoid substances that interfere with sleep.
Caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs can have an adverse effect on sleep.
Build a regular exercise regime.
Exercise promotes better sleep.
Ideally, you should exercise before 2 p.m. and avoid rigorous exercise right before bedtime.
Maintain a quiet, comfortable bedroom.
Keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.
Turn off bright lights. It is much easier to sleep in the dark.
Keep pets out of your room if they tend to wake you up at night.
Do not be a "clock-watcher”.
Watching the clock can increase anxiety, especially if you are having problems sleeping.
If you are one who is constantly looking at the clock at night, hide it.
Establish and maintain a strong pre-bedtime routine.
Find more information from the American Sleep Association.
Remember that in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, good quality sleep is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In addition to improving your health, good sleep can help you to become a more productive and happier person.
Penn A, May J, Doug, et al. Sleep Hygiene Tips - Research & Treatments: American Sleep Assoc. American Sleep Association. https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-hygiene-tips/. Accessed December 28, 2019.
Sleep Basics: REM, Sleep Stages, & More. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics. Accessed December 28, 2019.
Understanding Sleep Cycles. Sleep.org. https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-happens-during-sleep/. Accessed December 27, 2019.
Van Cauter E, Knutson K, Leproult R, Spiegel K. The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism. Medscape Neurology. https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/502825. Accessed December 27, 2019.