How To Sleep Better
So I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about how to sleep better. I’m going to let someone else talk about that. My good friend Bryan Paul Buckley has an excellent download on his website that you can pick up for free. He’s studied this topic in-depth and has some great resources and connections that can help you out here. So head over to his website and download his Sleep Your Way To The Top – 10 Secrets To Getting Better Sleep.
There are loads of ideas on how to improve your sleep in that document and if you put any of them to practice, you are going to see a result. There are some things you might have heard (like identifying how much sleep you need or monitoring the timing of your caffeine intake) and others you haven’t. The first secret is that YOU have to decide that sleep is important. It starts with this simple decision.
You know you should go to bed, but you want to finish reading one more Facebook post or watch just one more cat video. Maybe you honestly intended to go to bed right after the news, but instead, the Netflix attraction was too strong for you. In the back of your mind, you justify this behavior with this innocent comment: I can make it up tomorrow night. But it never happens. Bryan’s point is that it has to be a priority.
Here’s where I want to spend our time today: what are the sleep stages and what do they mean? Danielle Kosecki wrote a post on the Fitbit blog called Sleep Stages Explained. She’s a senior health and fitness editor and award-winning journalist who has covered health and fitness for more than 10 years. She’s written for Glamour, More, Prevention, and Bicycling magazines. Here’s how she breaks it down.
Four Sleep Stages
I’ve heard of the four sleep stages. The first two are categorized as light sleep. In Stage One, Michael Grandner, MD, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona, says it’s “choppy, shallow and not restful.” Allison Siebern, PhD, consulting assistant professor at The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine and director of Sleep Health Integrative Program at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fayetteville, NC, says that you are still hearing and aware and you don’t feel like you’re asleep.
Stage Two (remember, still light sleep), is what people mean when they are talking about light sleep. It’s when you doze off but are easily awakened. What’s crazy here is that Michael Grandner says HALF your night is spent in light sleep. It is very important. He also says that there is a lot of body maintenance occurring during this stage.
When I looked at my sleep stats on my Fitbit app, I was concerned that my light sleep was so disproportionate to the other sleep stages. Not to worry though!
Stage Three is deep sleep. You are harder to wake up during this stage. “Deep sleep is very much about the body,” says Grandner. “The thinking parts of the brain are largely offline. Your muscles are very relaxed. You’re not dreaming at all during this time. Your body is doing a lot of rebuilding and repairing.”
Stage Four is REM. “If deep sleep is about body, REM is about the brain,” says Grandner. “The brain is very active during REM sleep, yet the body is very inactive. Actually, it’s so inactive, you’re actively paralyzed during REM sleep.” You guessed it: this is when you dream. It’s also a bit of the reverse of deep sleep characteristics. In deep sleep, your heart rate decreases and breathing slows and muscles relax. In REM, heart rate increases, breathing is irregular and it’s where you jolted yourself thinking you fell off a ladder!
Danielle says that REM is important for emotion regulation and memory. Sooo, if you are irritable and forgetting your pants when you leave in the morning, you might be REM deficient. Again, I was thinking, okay, my REM numbers are low on my fit bit app. Yeah, they’re supposed to be. This leads to the third and final point:
The Sleep Cycles
These cycles matter and this is what you mess up when you aren’t sleeping enough. It’s kind of like the running the regeneration cycle on your water softener without any salt. Your body tries to go through the motions, but it’s not effective.
A sleep cycle is usually about 90 minutes long. It can be as short as 50, or as long as 100 minutes plus.
Here’s how Grandner breaks it down:
- Cycle 1: During light sleep, you’ll dip into Stage One and transition into Stage Two. Then you’ll move quickly into deep sleep, where you’ll stay for a while before going into 10 minutes or so of REM. “It’s very hard to wake up from deep sleep, which is why your body tries to get it over with as quickly as possible,” says Grandner. “By the time the night’s halfway over, you’re done with it.”
- Cycle 2: You’ll get slightly more light sleep, still a lot of deep sleep (but less than before), and a little more REM.
- Cycle 3: You’ll probably log a lot more light sleep, a little bit of deep sleep, and more REM.
Dan Pink, in his book, When, talks about this when he goes over an interesting comparison between larks (early risers) and owls (those who stay up late). He also offers some great tips for managing these energy cycles and even maximizing them with naps during the day. Check out his “nappuccino” download – you get to drink a cup of coffee and then take a nap. Does it get more awesome than that?!!
Michael Hyatt is another big proponent of mid-day naps (20 mins, don’t need much more).
After this, during the second half of the night, the cycles mostly break down as your body alternates between light sleep and REM for the rest of the night.
How Much Of Each Do I Need
Every person is different. As rules of them, it breaks down this way:
- Light sleep takes 50-60% of your night
- Deep sleep takes 10-25%
- REM sleep makes up 20-25%
Thanks to Danielle Kosecki for the insightful post and Bryan for the free download.
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