“Sleep is the best meditation.” – Dalai Lama
The month of May is Better Sleep Awareness month, which focuses on educating people about the correlation between health, safety and sleep. Organizations such as the National Sleep Foundation and the Better Sleep Council work to research and inform people of the risks associated with lack of sleep. In order to understand sleep and the benefits, it is imperative to have a basic understanding of the five stages of sleep.
The levels are known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and they are as follows:
Stage One: This is when your body is beginning to fall asleep, your muscles are still awake, eyes are moving by opening and closing slightly and you can wake easily. This stage last between approximately 5 to 10 minutes and if awoken during this stage you may believe you were not actually asleep.
Stage Two: During this stage your body begins to slow down, your heart rate decreases and your body temperature begins to drop. This stage lasts approximately 20 minutes and your body is preparing for deep sleep.
Stage Three: This stage is the transitional stage between light sleep, where you can be more easily awoken and deep sleep where you may feel confused or disoriented if awoken. This stage lasts approximately 20 minutes and is often combined with stage four.
Stage Four: This stage is very much like stage three, with the primary difference being that you are officially entering deep sleep. This stage lasts approximately 30 minutes and it can be very difficult to wake someone; sleepwalking and bedwetting are most likely to occur during the end of this stage.
Stage Five: The final sleeping phase is known as REM sleep which is when the brain becomes most active, eye movement becomes rapid and most voluntary muscles become paralyzed. It is also very common for the individual to dream and energy is being replenished to the brain and body. This phase lasts for approximately 10 minutes during the first cycle and becomes longer as the cycle repeats, with the final lasting up to an hour.
When people think of sleep, they tend to solely focus on the hours spent asleep rather than the quality of sleep. As you have read above each stage of sleep is imperative to properly resting one’s mind and body, as the stages of sleep do not continually repeat in order. In fact, once stage five is reached, the cycle repeats starting at stage two which continues throughout the night, usually four to five times.
As individuals get older they require less sleep, adults should get an average of 7 -9 hours versus babies who should have between 12 -18 hours. However as you have read, if you are not getting through each sleep stage, the time spent sleeping is not as effective and can cause impaired memory, weaken the immune system and even cause depression.
In order to help you get a good night’s rest, there are simple ways that you can create a restful sleep environment:
- Create a Sleep Schedule: Remember as a child when your parents would make you go to sleep at a certain time? You may have disliked going to bed before your favorite show was over, but there was a benefit. Having a specific time helps your body subconsciously shut down so that you can fall asleep quickly and wake-up at the proper time.
- Turn Off Electronics: Keep the light to a minimum, whether its checking your cell phone or watching television it can stimulate your mind and make it harder for you to fall asleep. If you need something in the background try turning on a fan or listening to music, this should relax your mind instead of activating it.
- Make Your Bed Special: Make your bed a nighttime haven, by using it only for your night routine and sleeping. While it can be tempting to sit in bed and finish work or spend a lazy day, this can actually work against you. The mind can be a powerful tool and by having your bed associated with things, other than sleep, can cause your brain to work harder instead of relax and allow you to drift to sleep.
Those were some very simple ideas but far from all, make no mistake, a simple search online or a trip to the library can help you find the best tricks for you to get a peaceful and restful night’s sleep.