Sleep phases and their importance…
Sleep is the latest focus trend and for great reason, it’s where the magic happens.
When it comes to health and fitness, so many people look straight towards the exercise output and the limited food they feel they can have, yet not many people look at the sleep side of their health.
I’d like to explain the magic of sleep and the stages that you go through in your sleep, so as you can piece together the missing links in your health journey…
We have access to so many devices that can track our sleep and movement, to help piece together our daily activities and our sleep.
I have a wonderful heart rate tracker – an Oura ring that helps track my daily activities and most of all my sleep.
The ring helps track all the stages of your sleep: total sleep, efficiency (%), restfulness, REM, light, deep and latency.
Measures the percentage of time you actually spend asleep after going to bed.
For adults a general accepted cut off score for good sleep efficiency is 85%. It’s common for this to decrease with age.
It lowers due to latency – taking time to get to sleep and long regular wake times during the night.
The amount of disturbances caused by wake-ups and restless time.
This can have a big impact on your sleep quality and daytime cognitive performance.
Restless sleep is less restorative than uninterrupted sleep, and it’s usually the cause of daytime sleepiness.
There are various reasons why we are disturbed, stress, noise, partners, pets or different foods.
To improve your chances of getting a rested sleep:
- Optimize your sleep environment, good mattress, pillow, and cool dark room
- Avoid eating 2 hours before bed
- Avoid alcohol (you may think it’s helping you relax, but it’s not getting you into a rested sleep)
- Try not to exercise/workout just before bed (night basketball or weight sessions)
- Disconnect from bright screens 1 – 2 hours before bed – allow the central nervous system to calm down.
REM (rapid eye movement):
This sleep stage plays an important role in re-energizing your mind and your body.
This sleep stage is associated with dreaming, memory consolidation, learning and creativity.
Making up anywhere between 5-50% of your total sleep time, the amount of REM can vary significantly between nights and individuals.
On average REM counts for 20-25% (1.5-2hrs) of total sleep time for adults and it usually decreases with age.
REM is regulated by circadian rhythms (your internal body clock).
Getting a full night’s sleep, sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine, alcohol or any other stimulants in the evening can increase your chances of getting more REM.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: those wanting to create and strive in their work (typical type A personalities), lessen their creative time by waking way early to get a workout in after a long night of work. They set their alarm and this wakes them out of their dream state, losing that unconscious creative time.
REM sleep is the key to amazing creations…
Light sleep makes up about 50% of the total sleep time for adults and typically begins a sleep cycle.
This starts in stage one, where some people twitch as they fall asleep, and then you move into stage two. As it states, light sleep is where we are easily woken from.
Your breathing and heartbeat slow down, and your muscles relax. Your body temperature decreases and your brain waves are less active.
Deep sleep is the most restorative and rejuvenating sleep stage, enabling muscle growth and repair.
When you’re in deep sleep, your blood pressure drops, heart and breathing rates are regular, arm and leg muscles are relaxed and you’re very difficult to awaken.
The amount of deep sleep can vary significantly between nights and individuals. It can make up between 0-35% of your total sleep time.
On average adults spend 15-20% (1-1.5hrs) of their total sleep time in deep sleep, the percentage usually decreases with age.
Keeping your sleep schedule consistent, exercising regularly, avoiding heavy meals, stimulants and bright screens 1-2 hours before bed, and long naps and caffeine in the afternoon can improve your chances of getting more deep sleep.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: not getting enough deep sleep will prolong your muscle growth, to get the ‘gains’ you’re after in the gym, the edge over others at your work, to strive for that promotion.
Deep sleep is what your body will thrive on, to improve your performance in gym, work and home life.
Sleep latency is the time it takes for you to fall asleep.
Ideally falling asleep shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes.
Falling asleep immediately, less than 5 minutes (“I’m asleep before my head hits the pillow”) is not good, and could be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep for your needs.
If you have trouble falling asleep, try getting out of bed and doing something relaxing, ideally in low light (salt lamp) conditions, until you feel sleepy again.
This is a sign that you need to mediate or simply sit and rest a bit more during the day.
This refers to the total amount of time you spend in light, REM and deep sleep.
It varies from person to person. As a general rule the younger you are, the more sleep you need. Most adults need 7-9 hours to perform well and stay healthy.
My main focus with my clients at the moment is really based around their sleep routines.
Work on a night time routine and experiment with what works for you to gain the most optimal sleep you can – it truly is magic…