Are you struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep? Are you taking a sleep medication because of countless restless nights?
Did you know some medications that help people fall asleep can interfere with the sleep cycle? This can keep you from reaching stage IV, REM sleep. Some medications have addictive properties, which create dependence. Long-term use of some medications, like Benadryl, can even affect cognitive function.
To avoid the adverse side effects of certain sleep medications, keep reading to learn about the sleep cycle and what you can do to help regulate it naturally and more safely.
The Sleep Cycle
There are five stages of the sleep cycle. According to the National Sleep Foundation, we break up those five stages between non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The five stages repeat themselves about every 90 minutes.
NREM sleep is composed of stages one through four. NREM sleep also accounts for about 75% of adult sleep, while the fifth stage (REM sleep) accounts for the last 25%.
Each sleep stage is essential and plays a vital function:
Doctors call this stage “light sleep.” During this stage, you drift in and out of sleep. Your eyes move slowly, and muscle activity starts to slow down. It is very easy to be awoken during this stage. This is when you may experience the phenomenon of hypnic myoclonia.
Hypnic myoclonia is the sensation of falling, which causes sudden muscle contractions.
When awoken at this stage, you may feel you haven’t slept.
This stage is also a part of the light sleep stage. During stage II, your body prepares itself for the deep sleep stages. During this time, eye movement stops, body temperature drops, brain waves slow, and heart rate slows.
Stage III & Stage IV
During the third stage, you experience the transition from light to deep sleep. Doctors can tell you are in stages III and IV when they can observe slow delta brain waves, as deep sleep is also known as slow-wave sleep.
Waking up during deep sleep may cause disorientation for a period. However, it may be challenging to wake up during these periods in general.
During these sleep stages, people experience parasomnias (sleep disorders), like sleepwalking. Parasomnias tend to occur when your body transitions from NREM to REM sleep.
Deep sleep is the deepest, most restorative sleep of the night. It is crucial for healing the mind and body from the day. During deep sleep, you experience tissue repair and the release of hormones, such as growth hormones.
Older adults have difficulty entering deep sleep. In general, they tend to sleep less and wake up more often.
This is when you enter REM sleep. REM sleep typically occurs after the first 90 minutes of sleep. The first instance of REM sleep usually only lasts about ten minutes. However, each instance of REM sleep following will continue to get longer until your final stage lasts about one hour.
During stage V of sleep, your eyes stay closed and move quickly from side to side. You may also experience a rise in brain activity, which is why many people dream during REM sleep.
People can dream four to six times a night. At the same time, your body relaxes, and your muscles stop working in a state of temporary paralysis. This is a protective measure to stop you from acting out your dreams.
Why is a Proper Sleep Cycle Important?
Proper sleep has many benefits, including:
- Improves brain function
- Boosts longevity
- Protects your heart
- Fights fat
- Balances your hormones
- Muscle recovery
Research indicates that it’s not the number of hours you sleep but the quality of the hours you sleep that make a difference in how you feel in the morning.
Healthy Sleep Tips
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations
- Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep
- Don’t go to bed unless you’re sleepy
- If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed; do a quiet activity without a lot of light exposure; it’s imperative to not get on electronics
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine
- User your bed only for sleep
- Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing; keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature
- Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings
- Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime
- Don’t eat large meals before bedtime; if you’re hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet
- Avoid consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening
- Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime
- Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime
Get Proper Sleep with The James Clinic
The whole point of adopting some of the tips in this blog is to naturally regulate your sleep cycle the way it is intended to work. Today, many environmental and physical factors affect your sleep cycle positively and negatively. Learn how to sleep around those factors.
If you’re struggling with your sleep, request a consult. We can pair you with a physician that can help give you more tips and tricks to help you sleep without over-medicating you with substances that may cause more harm than good.
For more information about The James Clinic, visit our website today!