Understanding Sleep Cycles: An Essential Guide to a Restful Night of Sleep
Restorative sleep after a long day of work is something that a lot of people wish to have every night. This allows people to refresh and get ready for the next day, playing a crucial role in improving many individuals' overall mental and physical health. It can mitigate various health complications from emerging and ensure that people are in the suitable mental capacity to handle various daily activities.
While many factors can affect a person's ability to get quality sleep, the prime aspect that would determine the quality of slumber is the sleep cycle. While it is one of the most important concepts when it comes to sleeping, countless individuals are still unfamiliar with sleep cycles and their impact on a good night's sleep.
Understanding sleep cycles can benefit those looking to boost how their bodies recuperate at night, leading to a much-improved mood, strengthened immune system, and enhanced cognitive performance.
The Basics of Sleep Cycles
No sleep is the same, mainly because the body undergoes multiple sleep cycles throughout the night. A sleep cycle is a natural, repetitive pattern of sleeping stages that happens 4 to 6 times each night and averages around 90 minutes each. These cycles promote several benefits to people's health, including optimal physical restoration and energy conservation.
There are four sleep stages grouped into two different categories: NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement).
- NREM: The first three stages of sleep all fall under the NREM group, which is the progress from wakefulness to deep sleep. During this stage, the body experiences several changes during the NREM stages, including increased blood flow to the muscles, tissue repair, and the release of growth hormones.
- REM: During REM sleep, individuals experience heightened brain activity, vivid dreaming, and rapid eye movements. The body also experiences temporary paralysis during this stage, apart from the eyes and the muscles responsible for breathing. This makes up for up to 25% of the total sleep of healthy adults.
Despite trying to keep sleep cycles consistent, different factors can affect an individual's sleep cycle. For starters, hormonal fluctuations due to age can lead to significant changes in sleeping needs, disrupting the sleep cycle. Moreover, environmental and lifestyle factors can also impact sleep cycles, leading to a negative sleeping experience.
The Four Stages of Sleep
NREM Stage 1
Also called N1, the first stage of sleep starts when sleepers close their eyes and last up to 7 minutes (or less if the body remains uninterrupted during this stage). This is mainly characterized by when people are just starting to fall asleep, bridging wakefulness and the light sleep stage.
While the body is still active during this stage, heartbeat and breathing might start slowing down, helping cool down the body to transition into light sleep. There is a tendency for people not to feel like they are asleep when they wake up during this stage.
NREM Stage 2 (Light Sleep)
Real sleep starts during NREM stage 2 when the heart rate and breathing get slower, and the muscles fully relax. In addition, body temperature also drops, eye movement stops, and waves emitted by the brain start to slow down. This stage usually lasts up to 25 minutes per cycle and is the principal preparation for deep and REM sleep.
NREM Stage 3 (Deep Sleep)
The most crucial part of restorative sleep is NREM's third stage, which usually lasts 20-40 minutes per cycle. The body fully relaxes during deep sleep and lasts 20-40 minutes per cycle. In this stage, the body will also start regrowing tissue and consolidating memories that happened throughout the day. Delta waves will also emerge, characterized by slow waves that help in long-term memory consolidation.
The brain will have an increased activity rate during REM sleep, nearing the level of when people are awake. This is why the most vivid dreams happen during this sleep stage and usually last up to 10-60 minutes each cycle. The body also experiences atonia, which is the temporary paralysis of the muscles, helping sleepers not act out their dreams. REM sleep is crucial in a person's cognitive functions, such as memory, learning, and creativity.
The Role of Circadian Rhythms
While several factors can affect the quality of someone's sleep cycles, an individual's circadian rhythm plays a huge role in people's sleeping experience. The circadian rhythm is people's internal 24-hour body clock, which influences various physiological processes. The most well-known circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle, crucial in boosting a person's well-being.
Different elements can impact circadian rhythm, including:
- Light Exposure – Light during the day helps regulate the circadian rhythm, alerting the body to stay awake and active. However, prolonged exposure to light during the night, mainly due to screens, can disrupt melatonin production, significantly delaying sleep.
- Irregular Sleeping Schedules – Another factor affecting circadian rhythms is irregular bedtime hours, especially for those who frequently change the time they sleep or those working in the graveyard shift. This can confuse the body's internal body clock, affecting sleep cycles in the long run.
- Temperature Changes: Fluctuations in ambient temperature can also seriously affect the circadian rhythm. A cool temperature is generally conducive to quality sleep cycles.
The circadian rhythm directly impacts the production of the necessary hormones needed for restorative sleep, and even the slightest disruptions to this can profoundly impact sleep cycles. An unaligned circadian rhythm will make it challenging to maintain consistent sleeping cycles, resulting in poor slumber that won't refresh anyone for the day. A well-regulated circadian rhythm promotes healthy sleeping habits that can improve physical and mental health.
With sleep becoming a luxury for many nowadays, understanding the intricacies of sleep cycles is valuable for those looking to have a good night's sleep. This enables people to foster healthy sleeping habits and mitigate inconsistent and unrefreshing slumber. Purchasing items that can help build a conducive sleeping environment, such as pillows and mattresses, can help promote consistent and healthy sleep cycles.
If you are looking for the best Japanese mattress and pillow for your bedroom, AiR by nishikawa is for you. Our line of AiR mattresses and pillows is designed to give optimal comfort and support for sleepers, decreasing stress on various stress points in the body and creating a comfortable sleeping environment for many people.
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If you are interested in our products, visit our Santa Monica mattress store at 395 Santa Monica Pl, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Here, you can experience various AiR products and see what fits your needs best. We can help you measure the pressure balance applied to your body when sitting and sleeping and recommend the ideal cushion and mattress. We can also precisely measure the curve of your head and neck so you can have the perfect pillow for the best sleeping experience.
If you have further inquiries, please connect with us by visiting www.air-nishikawa.com/pages/contact-us or calling (424) 278-0300.