Understanding Sleep Patterns And What To Do To Affect Them
Understanding the Different Stages of Sleep
Also discover if you have any sleep disorders. A sleep schedule may help you to get better rest and avoid sleep problems or optimize sleep duration ensuring quality sleep.
Each night when you go to sleep, your body and mind goes through a lot of changes.
Sleep changes and goes through various brain functions making up the total sleep. A regular sleep pattern can vastly improve the sleep quality.
This is why it seems like you are in a lighter or deeper sleep, or sometimes you dream and other types you don’t.
Each of these changes will occur during a different stage of sleep. Here are the stages of sleep and what you can do to improve them.
Stage One – Light Stage Sleep
The first stage of sleep is naturally the lightest sleep, which is often what people experience when they take a brief nap in the daytime.
Even at night, you go through stage one first, but it can last just a few minutes.
During the light stage of sleep, your eye movements will start to slow down, and while you are slightly unconscious, you are also a little alert.
If you have ever drifted off while in bed or lying on the couch, but are instantly alerted to what’s going on a minute or two later, you were caught in the first stage of sleep.
Some people have jerky body movements as well, especially when going between light sleep stage one and two of sleep.
Stage Two – Preparing for Deep Sleep
When you get through stage one, you start preparing for a deep sleep.
This is stage two, when your eye movement has stopped and your brain waves start to slow down.
Your body temperature will also likely drop in order to prepare for a deeper sleep.
Stage two is still a lighter sleep since you are not yet in a deep sleep yet.
Your heart rate slows down, and there is an increase in brain wave activity.
If you are trying to take a short nap, you wouldn’t want to get past stage two, or it would be hard to wake back up without an alarm.
Stage Three – Beginning of Deep Sleep
The start of a deep sleep occurs in the third stage of sleeping.
Your brain produces waves called slower delta waves, which is when you might start having night terrors or other effects of sleep if you have a parasomnia.
Do you struggle with sleepwalking or talking in your sleep? If so, it will probably occur in stage three or four, but rarely during REM sleep (the final stage).
When you reach stage three of sleep, it is harder to awake you.
You won’t be as responsive to sounds and other distractions, only waking to a loud noise or other sudden alert.
You might not even hear your alarm clock right away.
Stage Four – Continuing Deep Sleep
The final stage of sleep before you reach REM sleep is stage four, where you continue with your deep sleep.
For adults, about 12 to 22 percent of your sleep is deep sleep.
Your brain is still producing those delta waves, though it is more continuous and long-lasting than in stage three.
If you are woken up while in stage four of sleep, you tend to be very sleepy and a bit disoriented.
If you don’t get about 90 minutes of the deep sleep you need you might still be tired each day.
REM Sleep – Rapid Eye Movement
Finally, you reach the fifth stage, which is REM sleep.
This stands for rapid eye movement, which is the deepest form of sleep.
Your arms and legs become temporarily paralyzed during this stage to prevent you from physically acting out your dreams.
It typically occurs between 1 and 2 hours after you have fallen asleep and gone through the other 4 stages of sleep.
When you have an REM sleep cycle (Which there are several each night), you might have dreams, and if someone were to look at your eyelids, they would see your eyes moving back and forth.
Your heart rate increase and your breathing is sometimes faster.
REM sleep is important for everyone. It helps you process information from the previous day for long-term storage, and it helps your body to fully rest. If you never dream, you might not be getting REM sleep, and should get help with improving your sleep throughout the night.
What Could Be Hurting Your Sleep?
Not getting enough sleep can be a very frustrating experience, but even more frustrating is figuring out why.
There is a long list of things that could affect your sleep, from your sleep hygiene and daily habits, to medications, diet, exercise, and medical conditions.
Here are some of the most common things that might be hurting your sleep.
First up is stress. The reason why doctors think stress causes so many of your ailments, is because it can!
Stress doesn’t just affect your mental and emotional health, but your physical health as well. Your sleep duration is also directly impacted by your level of stress and could lead to a sleep disorder.
It is vital that you get a handle on your stress levels, or just about every area of your life is going to suffer, including your sleep.
Try to find ways to relieve your stress if you have been suffering from sleep deprivation.
This might mean cutting hours at work, practicing more self-care, reducing time with toxic people in your life, or just finding simple stress relievers like exercise or taking a day off every week.
Your Sleeping Environment
People are now understanding more about sleep quality and sleep hygiene, which includes where you sleep and your bedroom environment.
If your bedroom is not set up to get good sleep, such as being too hot or too cold, extremely bright, or with a lot of distractions, you aren’t going to get good sleep.
Take some time to improve your sleeping environment to be calming and peaceful.
Lack of Bedtime Rituals
You might also not have good bedtime rituals and sleep habits.
The way you get ready for sleep each night is just as important as the quality of your mattress and having a relaxing sleep environment.
If you watch TV on the couch every night and fall asleep there, you are going to wake up with back and neck pain, and have trouble falling back asleep.
Start preparing for bed an hour or so before your actual bedtime by winding down, relaxing with tea or a bath, and doing quiet, relaxing activities like journaling or reading.
You might want to treat this like a sleep diary, to identify if you have any sleep debt.
Make sure you do this consistently every night to get your mind and body ready for bed.
Distractions and Electronics
Do you keep your TV on at night or use your phone until you finally fall asleep?
If so, this might be why you are suffering from sleep deprivation.
These distractions can seem like they are helping you fall asleep, but they also cause a lot of disturbances every time you wake up.
If you are checking your phone when you wake up to roll over to your other side, your brain is becoming more alert from whatever notifications or emails you have.
This is really screwing up your sleep.
Keep the phone away from the bed where you can’t reach it, turn the light off, and turn off your television and laptop.
Certain medical conditions might also be contributing to your lack of sleep, like Parkinson’s, diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and heart disease.
If you suffer from any medical conditions that cause discomfort or stress at night, talk to your doctor about treating them.
Finally, your diet should also be considered.
There are some foods that can actually help to encourage sleep, such as turkey and healthy carbs, while a diet of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol before bed is going to inhibit your sleep.
You will have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, which could keep you from ever reaching that deep, REM sleep everyone needs each night.
Try to work on improving your sleep habits, set your room up to be prepared for bed, and stop leaving your phone on your bed or nightstand. These are all severely hurting your quality of sleep.
Sleeping Aids: Natural VS Over-the-Counter Remedies
If you are having trouble sleeping, and just switching up your habits isn’t enough to help, you might need to turn to sleeping aids.
There are three main categories of sleeping aids – prescription, over-the-counter, and natural.
We are going to discuss all three of them, but focus mainly on OTC and natural options for improving your sleep.
Prescription and OTC Sleep Aids
The first types of sleep aids are either available at your local drug store over-the-counter, or by prescription from your doctor.
There are some pros and cons for every sleep aid, whether it is natural or not. It is good to understand what each medication can do for you in order to make a decision on which might help you the best.
Prescription Sleep Aids
First we have the sleep aids available by prescription. Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription medication that help to slow the activity in your brain.
These are often given to people for anxiety and other mental health disorders, but they can also help rest your brain to help you sleep better.
These include medications like lorazepam, diazepam, triazolam, and temazepam.
There are also non-benzo prescription sleep aids like eszopiclone and zolpidem, or names you might recognize more easily – Lunesta and Ambien.
These are good when your insomnia is from a short-term situation, like an increase in your anxiety or following a traumatic event.
They are not intended for long-term use.
Your doctor might also recommend antidepressants, which can help with the serotonin levels in your brain to encourage better rest at night.
The most common antidepressants prescribed for insomnia are amitriptyline and trazodone.
Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids
The OTC meds are good because they don’t require a prescription, but you also need to be careful about tolerance and addiction.
Most OTC sleeping aids are a type of antihistamine or diphenhydramine.
There are drowsy formulas of drugs often taken for allergies, sinus, and colds.
These might include Benadryl, Advil PM, Unisom, and Sominex.
These are also not recommended on a long-term basis, since they can cause drowsiness throughout the next day after taking them.
Observing The Circadian Rhythm
Nature has programmed our bodies to react to the natural environment of light and dark. This is called the circadian rhythm.
Normal sleep is to occur during hours of darkness, for optimal effectiveness. Sleep research has shown that regular sleep patterns following this rhythm are much more beneficial to our system.
Be aware of your timezone, especially if you travel worldwide, as these can play havoc with common sleep as they throw out your circadian rhythm without you realizing the effect on your sleep cycle.
Natural Sleep Aids
For something you can take more on a continued basis, look at the natural options.
These are not as harsh on your body, and can often help with long-term sleep issues.
The first natural sleep aid to consider taking is melatonin.
This is a hormone you already have in your body that will help you decide when it is time to sleep.
Unfortunately, you might have a decline in this hormone, and need to take a melatonin supplement.
It is really beneficial for people who need to sleep during the day or at different times each day from a shift work schedule.
You can also try adding a magnesium supplement to your daily routine.
If you are not getting enough magnesium through natural food sources, you might notice a decline in the quality of your sleep.
There are different types of magnesium, from supplement pills you can take, to powder you add to your water.
If you are a fan of herbs and essential oils, there are a few that can help you get better sleep. Some o the best ones are lavender, rose, and chamomile.
Sleep duration, as well as good sleep patterns are essential to your health.
Older adults with irregular sleep patterns — meaning they have no regular bedtime and wakeup schedule, or they get different amounts of sleep each night — are nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those with more regular sleep patterns, according to a new study funded in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Sleep disorder research has shown that the immune system, heart health, vascular disease and brain function, are all affected by sleep disturbance.
Public health, as well as your personal overall health are contingent on regular sleep patterns with enough total sleep.
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