Good sleep – we’re talking 7 to 9 hours – is an ideal part of a healthy lifestyle. While the quantity does matter, sleep is one area where quality matters too. If you seem to be getting 8 hours, but still wake up exhausted, you may not be getting enough restful sleep – or deep sleep.
What is Restful Sleep?
The human body goes through several stages of sleep each night – there is the non-REM cycle which comprises four stages (1 through 4) which typically takes about 90 minutes, then a REM cycle which shows up every 90 minutes and can vary in duration.
REM sleep is also called Rapid Eye Movement and is most commonly associated with dreaming – the eyes move rapidly, brain movement can seem to increase to a wakeful state and systems are usually on alert.
In the non-REM cycle, the body is powering down. Stages 1 and 2 are when the body slowly goes from a wakeful state to light sleep – body temperature is lowered, heart beats slower and the muscles are relaxing. Stages 3 and 4 – also called Deep Sleep or Restful Sleep – are when the body is plunged into slow-wave sleep. The bodily systems are functioning at their slowest, and brain waves are going into a slow and restful state.
Deep sleep is the portion of the sleep cycle that makes us feel refreshed when we wake up. This is the time when the brain is processing the events of the day and forming these into memories. Think of it almost like a reboot for the system. Deep sleep is necessary to ensure memory is restored, the immune system is bolstered, cell regeneration and circulation are improved and everything in the body can function as expected.
You need 1-2 hours of deep sleep every night to maintain smooth functioning of body and mind. If you aren’t currently getting enough deep sleep, read on for a few tips.
How to Sleep Better every night
1.Follow a sleep schedule
Humans have an internal clock that syncs with daylight and nighttime, but make sure that you are not messing with that clock. Set a schedule for yourself and go to bed at the same time every night. Likewise, wake up at the same time every morning. It might be difficult at first, but once the routine is set, your body will automatically start to get drowsy around bedtime and be less groggy when you wake up.
This might also mean avoiding those mid-day naps because you feel tired. Wait until the next bedtime and fall asleep then to reset the cycle.
2.Set up an appropriate sleep environment
Bright lights, bad mattresses, noisy flatmates and neighbours – these are all indicators of a bad environment for sleep. Make sure that your bedroom (or sleeping area) is more tranquil and quiet, wear an eye mask if you have to, and find yourself a good mattress. You will be spending about a third of your life sleeping, so it makes sense to invest in a good sleeping situation.
3.Avoid heavy meals before dinner
This goes for too much alcohol or caffeine as well. Basically, limit anything where the body (or the digestive or endocrine system) has to work overtime to tackle before you can get to the drowsiness stage. If possible, eat your last meal of the day at least 3-4 hours before bedtime to allow time for digestion.
4.Create a wind-down ritual
This may differ from person to person, but create a ritual – or a specific activity – to do before bed. Something light is preferable – like reading a book, meditating for a few minutes, a warm shower – do this before bedtime and as you continue to form this habit, the brain will take this activity to mean that sleep is coming next and prepare to wind everything down.
5.Stay away from bright screens
This should be a no-brainer but it is hard to do in today’s world. The stimulation offered by bright screens – including mobile phones and TVs – can make it difficult to wind down and fall into the stages of sleep right away. If you are not able to curb this by yourself, get an app that will automatically turn off screens or hide notifications or reduce brightness for you.
6.Maintain a healthy lifestyle
This is one of the most important habits to cultivate – working out, meditating, eating well can all help you in getting your forty winks and waking up refreshed. Remember – it’s all about helping the body help you.
If you’ve tried all of these and still have trouble sleeping, it may be time to see a doctor and see if additional medical help is needed. Start with your GP – our GPs at Gogodoc can offer you expert medical advice over a phone or video online consultation. Your GP will be able to direct you to a specialist if necessary, or recommend sleep analysis or sleep therapy as appropriate,