If you’re struggling to get enough sleep every night, you’re not alone. A study by the CDC found that about one-third of Americans don’t get adequate rest. And that’s a shame, because sleep allows your brain to recover while offering your body many health benefits. But you can’t just tell yourself to go to sleep and see results. I wish you could, but it’s not that easy! You’ll first need to understand the basics, including the five stages of sleep, and then consider some ways to start sleeping better. Here’s what you need to know to get more shuteye.
You can get started on the basics of sleeping better with these tips: Wrestling the Insomnia Demon
The Five Stages of Sleep
The sleep cycle is about 90 minutes long, during which you move through five stages of sleep. They include:
Stage One: When you first start to fall asleep, you’re in stage one. At this point, your brain waves begin slowing down and your muscles begin to relax. You might wake up pretty easily during this period, and you may snap awake when you think you hear someone call your name. However, this is just a hypnagogic hallucination, which is sort of like a daydream. If you’re able to get back to sleep and stay asleep for about ten minutes, you’ll move on to stage two.
Stage Two: The second of the five stages of sleep involves slightly slower brain waves and even more relaxed muscles. Your heart rate also slows down. This stage often occurs after you’ve been asleep for more than 15 minutes.
Stage Three: After about 30 minutes of sleep, you should end up in stage three, during which your brain waves slow down further and your muscles release. If you normally snore, it likely begins now, and you would feel groggy and confused if someone were to wake you up during this stage. This is the transition from light sleep to deep sleep.
Stage Four: Next is stage four. At this point, you’re so deep into the stages of sleep that you might sleepwalk or sleep talk during this time. This stage is considered deep sleep and should last about a half hour.
REM Sleep: Stage five is referred to as REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement. Your brain activity is at its highest during this phase, so this is when you’re typically dreaming. At the same time, your muscles are so relaxed you can’t move them, so you won’t be sleepwalking or moving at all during REM sleep. However, the muscle relaxation may make sleep apnea worse since airways can collapse and make it hard to breathe.
You can learn more about the stages of sleep when you read: The Science of Sleeping
How to Get Better Sleep
It’s important for you to go through all five stages of sleep numerous times each night if you want to ensure your brain has time to recover from the day. Sleep is when your brain heals, especially during deep sleep, so you need to get between seven and nine hours of rest every night. If you’re having trouble with that, it’s time to focus on changing your habits.
You can start by turning off all the lights in your room before bed, as light signals to your brain that it’s daytime and you should be awake. Make sure your room is as dark as possible to stop this issue, and keep in mind that this doesn’t only apply to white or yellow light. It also includes blue light, which comes from electronics. So if you tend to fall asleep while watching TV, or you scroll through your smartphone before bed, try putting away the electronics an hour before bedtime to see if you sleep better.
You should also get on a good schedule and stick to it. This means going to bed at about the same time every night. This way, your body will naturally become tired around bedtime and you shouldn’t have any trouble experiencing the five stages of sleep soon after you get into bed. As you try to stay on track, make sure to avoid exercising right before bed, since this will increase your heart rate and make it hard to sleep. However, you can try some simple stretches or even yoga shortly before calling it a night.
Check out how yoga every night can help you achieve all the stages of sleep: Battling Insomnia? How Yoga Can Help You Sleep
If changing your habits and sleep environment doesn’t help, you can always try taking supplements that encourage your brain and body to get to sleep around bedtime. For example, melatonin can signal to your brain when it’s nighttime—and therefore time to sleep—and when it’s daytime. If you don’t produce enough melatonin on your own, taking a supplement can solve your problems, allowing you to get back in the habit of experiencing all the stages of sleep each night.
In fact, FitFormula has released an all-natural sleep supplement that can help you get better sleep, so check that out! In the meantime, go ahead and study up on sleep so you know the science behind it.