Understanding your sleep cycle

It seems no matter how much sleep we get, most of us wake up to the alarm clock thinking, “Just five more minutes!” Want to go to sleep faster and wake feeling refreshed after a good nights sleep?  You can experience improvements in your sleep by understanding your sleep cycle and learning the best way for your body to wind down. 

The Sleep Cycle

Humans sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes, each cycle has 5 stages:

Stage 1: Sleepiness
Stage 2: Light sleep
Stage 3 & 4: Deep sleep
Stage 5: REM (rapid eye movement)/dreaming

Here’s the key: if you can schedule your sleep so you wake up at the end of a 90 minute interval, you’ll rise feeling more refreshed. If you try waking up mid-cycle, you’ll tend to feel groggy and want to hit the snooze button.

Start a sleep log

Sleep logs help you to track variables over time, helping you to notice any disruptive patterns or habits that are making your sleep worse.

Some ideas to get you started include:

– The time you went to bed
– How long it took you to fall asleep
– How many times you hit the snooze button in the morning
– The time you woke up
– If you exercised
– If you took a nap during the day and how long it lasted
– What you ate
– Rate your quality of sleep that night

And some ways you can wind down…

Listen to relaxing music before bed

Listening to relaxing music can help to reduce muscle tension, slow down the heart rate, and slow down the breathing rate. The more relaxed you are before bed time, the easier it may be to fall asleep.

Have you heard of a white noise machine?

Puts you to sleep using a range of sound frequencies to help block external noises. If you live on a busy street or your neighbour’s backyard is under construction, this machine might do the trick for you.

Don’t skip breakfast

Eating breakfast helps to regulate hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol circulating throughout the body disrupts your sleep/wake cycle and prevents you from getting decent shut-eye.

Eat light food before you sleep.

Avoid large meals 2 hours before bed time. A big meal stimulates digestion and prevents optimal sleep. Have a larger breakfast and lunch, go light on dinner.

Use a sleep mask.

In order for your body to produce sufficient melatonin, the sleep hormone, you need to sleep in complete darkness. Any type of light in the room can interfere with how well you sleep, and even inhibit melatonin production.

Whether you have minor or a more serious sleep issues, Elevate can help. Our Integrated GPs and our Naturopath can investigate your concerns and develop a health plan to address the symptoms and find the cause.

If you have been diagnosed with or suspect you have a sleep disorder, our sleep and respiratory specialist  Dr Kevin Chan can help.  To find out more about our sleep clinic, call 02-9252 2225.  

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