Understanding the concept of sleep cycle will help you learn about your sleep pattern which in turn can help you sleep better. The lack of knowledge in this area should be paid more attention toward since we all spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping.
For those who have problems getting a good night sleep or even getting any sleep at all, don’t worry! You are certainly not alone. Our daily lives have evolved drastically over the last decade, with a myriad of added electronic devices that supposedly increase our efficiency and improve our lives. Nevertheless this also means that we are now living in a faster pace environment, with higher stress level and less quality sleep.
Why do you need to know your Sleep Cycle?
The famous term “Deep Sleep” is the most important type of sleep that one should achieve. By understanding the sleep cycle, you will have a better gauge at how to arrive at Deep Sleep, and stay at Deep Sleep as long as possible.
What is Sleep Cycle?
When we fall asleep, our body enters into a Sleep Cycle. Each Sleep Cycle last around 90 minutes, and in this 90 minutes, we go through 5 stages of sleep. The Sleep Cycle can be explained akin to reading a book. Imagine we read 4-5 books a night (we go through 4-5 sleep cycle to add up to 7-8 hours of sleep), and each book have 5 chapters (the 5 stages of sleep). Each chapter needs to be read in order to enter the next chapter.
Light Sleep, our muscle relax and prepares us to sleep, this process usually takes 5 minutes.
Intermediate Sleep, our breathing slows down, heart rate slows down, and our body temperature decrease slightly. Since there is so much that needs to be done in this chapter before we can move on, this process takes a much longer time, 45 minutes.
Early Deep Sleep, the body is well prepared for Deep Sleep to occur and the body slowly enters into Deep Sleep. This process is quick and takes around 5 minutes.
Deep Sleep, the body stays in Very Deep Sleep. This is the most important part of sleep and the process last around 15 minutes.
REM Sleep, also known as Rapid Eye Movement, is the last chapter of the sleep cycle and this is where dreams occur. The process in this chapter last around 20 minutes.
How can the Sleep Cycle be disrupted?
It is possible to experience very little deep sleep or even be blocked from entering the deep sleep chapter. As explained earlier, each chapter in the sleep cycle must be completed in order to enter the next chapter. If we are experiencing high level of stress, our muscles are unable to relax hence we are unable to complete “Chapter 1: Light Sleep”, or take much longer to complete this chapter
Another example to show how deep sleep can be completely blocked is when we experience Fever. When experiencing fever, our muscles are unable to relax, heart rate beats fast, and body temperature remain high. During fever, we spend hours sleeping but do not get any deep sleep that is why we wake up feeling tired ever after hours of sleep.
Additionally, movement during your sleep, noise or any situation that will awake you can disrupt your sleep cycle and deprive you from deep sleep.
Why some people sleep less than others?
Ever wonder why some people sleep only 3-4 hours per day for their entire life, while others need much longer hours of sleep per day? This is because individuals whom require lesser hours of sleep goes through the chapters of sleep faster to enter into deep sleep, and stay in deep sleep longer. Hence they require lesser sleep cycles per day, known as “efficient sleeping”. If we can find a way to cut down the time spent in completing “Chapter 2: Intermediate Sleep”, which is where we spent more than 50% of our sleep cycle time, we will arrive at deep sleep much faster!
Now, Sleep Better!
After understanding what is sleep cycle, how sleep cycle can be disrupted and how sleep cycle work for different people, it is easier to find ways to improve our sleep. Your sleeping environment is crucial to ensure that your sleep cycle can be processed smoothly. Some quick tips would be to ensure your mattress is comfortable and sleep disturbance free, i.e. when you partner moves, you certainly don’t wish to be awaken when you are one step away from Deep Sleep!