Sleep is defined as a decreased state of consciousness in which your body level of response to stimuli is greatly reduced. Your body has limited sensory activity and your voluntary muscles are relaxed at best. While this is true, sleep scientists strongly hold the notion that your body is not totally in a state of inactivity. That your brain and some parts of your body are still active and functioning.
Sleep follows a defined pattern. If one of these patterns is skipped or limited time is spent in one stage, your quality of sleep may get affected. Sleep occurs in stages. These stages include Non-Rapid Eye Movement Stage (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement Stage (REM). A sleep pattern dictates that you first get into the NREM stage of sleep that lasts approximately 31 -72 minutes. REM stage of sleep comes after and carries 20 -25 % of the total adult sleep.
An Adult’s Sleep Cycle
Most adults begin their sleep cycle with NREM that is comprised of three stages. NREM sleep is characterized by a defined systematic alpha activity that informs your wakefulness. Gradually, your wakefulness transitions into N1 which is the first stage of NREM. When you experience patterns of mixed-frequency coupled with sluggish eye movements then nodding off, you are definitely in the N1 stage. The N1 stage can occur up to seven minutes before the N2 stage.
The N2 stage of NREM is characterized by oscillatory brain activity when observed on an EEG reading commonly referred to as sleep spindles. N3, the third stage of NREM sleep follows with a high-voltage of activity that is a slow wave in nature as the sleep progresses. The N2 stage takes 10-25 minutes of sleep time. N3 stage lasts up to 40 minutes. Worth noting is that these patterns do not necessarily occur in the order listed. Before you enter into REM sleep, a couple of body movements adjusts your body to a 10-minute N2 stage.
NREM and REM sleep keep alternating as you sleep. There are more than two NREM and REM sleep cycles. The first cycle will last up to 100 minutes while the second cycle will last from 90 -120 minutes.
Biological Body Clock
Luckily for you, your body has a natural clock known as circadian rhythm that is guided by the rising and setting of the sun. At dusk, your biological body clock signals “no light” message to the body. The body, in turn, responds by producing Melatonin hormone responsible for inducing sleep. At dawn, the sun begins to rise, a light appears; your biological body clock detects the presence of light; the presence of light reduces melatonin hormone in your body and initiates a wake-up cycle.
Factors to consider for quality sleep
While the body’s natural sleep cycle appears all good and working, it doesn’t guarantee you quality sleep. Quality sleep is achieved by putting into consideration pertinent lifestyle habits and routines that affect sleep. Picture a case of your bed frame. Is your bed frame supportive of your body frame? You may want to look at a bed frame guide to help you make an informed choice.
- A cool bedroom temperature
A cool environment is the best for inducing drowsiness and sleep to your body. Room temperature isn’t ideal for quality sleep. You could consider achieving cool room temperatures of between 15.6 – 20°C. Though not a standard temperature range applicable to everybody, it is the most ideal.
- Consider pink for white noise
In scientific disciplines, white noise is noise that has equal and consistent energy in all hearablefrequencies while pink noise is characterized by low-frequency elements as compared to white noise.
Pink noise is the ideal noise for quality sleep since it is simply white noise that has been filtered to suit the response of the human ear to sound frequency.
As such, your body responds by regulating and slowing down your brain waves creating a long and comfortable sleep. Examples of pink noise include the noise from a running fan (good for regulating temperature and noise in your bedroom), sound from rain falling steadily. Given that it may not rain daily, consider downloading apps that can produce a pink noise.
- Know what sleeping position works for you
Sleeping on your back may be the best sleep position for you but not your neighbor. To some people, sleeping on their side is what achieves a quality sleep for them. Just ensure to pull your knees up close to your chest. Add a pillow in between your knees to straighten your pelvis and spine. This sleep position tends to work for many. Some sleep on their stomachs. However, sleeping on your tummy is not advised as it has the potential of choking your breath. If you choose to sleep on your back, you may opt to use a second pillow at the hollow of your back for added support.
- Comfortable mattress and pillow
Sleeping on the same mattress and pillow for several years has the potential risk of causing back stiffness and shoulder pain. Quality sleep can be achieved with a new high-density mattress and a pillow that suits your preference. For that matter, a study found out that a new mattress improves the quality of sleep by 60% and reduces the stiffness of the back by 59%.
There are many actions you could take to ensure your sleep is quality. While this article has not listed every possible action exhaustively, the ones listed, if attempted can have a tremendous effect on your sleep quality. Sleep should never be made to feel painful and uncomfortable; it is the only time your body has to process information, relax your muscles and retain memory. If anything, how you rest should be the top-most second priority after the food you eat. Seek to weigh in on this matter by taking a positive step towards the factors affecting quality sleep mentioned in here.