Many believe that the quantity of sleep you receive is more important than the quality, whereas others choose to believe the opposite. However, both are really just as important as the other, and should be taken into consideration when you go to bed each night as it’s not all about simply having a comfortable mattress and bed. While our waking lives can sometimes affect our sleep cycle, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting enough quality sleep to feel refreshed each morning. As such, establishing a regular sleep cycle should be the first thing that you consider if you’re experiencing sleeping problems, so here’s some advice on how to correct your sleep cycle this year.
Why are sleep cycles important?
When we’re asleep, the body undergoes five stages of sleep; where the first four stages comprise of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and the final stage represents rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During NREM sleep we progress from very light sleep in stage one to a very deep sleep in stage 4 before moving into REM sleep in stage 5 all within 90 minutes. The final stage of this cycle is where the most dreaming occurs and the production of visual images within dreams may be as a consequence of REM. However, feeling well-rested in the morning relies upon uninterrupted sleep so that the various sleep cycles can be completed.
As shown in the image above, during the night we will undergo several sleep cycles where the stages of NREM and REM sleep begin to change over the time spent asleep. When we progress into the REM stage we’re more likely to wake up, but if your sleep is uninterrupted then you’ll drift back down into a deeper sleep and start a new cycle. As such, many sleeping problems are as a result of being unable to progress into can be linked to the inability to slip into a deeper sleep for very long. This means that if your sleep pattern is shallow, you’ll spend more time in and around the REM state which makes it more likely to wake up during the night.
How to get in sync
Understanding why sleep cycles are important as well as what factors in your waking life are affecting your sleep are integral to getting in sync with your sleep cycles. As you progress through each stage of sleep your brainwave activity changes, which is predominantly due to how relaxed you are when you’re trying to nod off.
Source: Examined Existence
If you’re alert and focused before bed, then your brainwave activity will be high (beta 12-30hz) when really you want this to be in the lower range (<12hz). As such, one of the most effective methods of improving your sleep is through a process called ‘brainwave entrainment’. This is where you utilise sound to synchronise your brain to the same beat frequency of the stage of sleep you are in. For example, to move into the deepest stage of sleep, your brainwave frequency will be within the 0.1-4Hz or delta range, so listening to a repeating tone beating at 4 times a minute will synchronise your brainwaves to the frequency of the tone.
Synchronising your sleep can be easier said than done, but there are plenty of tips and tools available to help you sleep better each night. However, in order to improve your sleep, it’s imperative to try and understand what’s causing you to not get as much quantity or quality sleep as you need. Consequently, by synchronising your brainwave frequency to the various stages of sleep you should find that you’ll start to sleep without interruption and feel more refreshed in the morning.