Sleep has the biggest influence over our health and wellbeing. It’s more important than exercise, income and friends. We spend one third of our life asleep and we tend to take it for granted rather than spending any time making sure it’s the best sleep we can get.
There are four stages of sleep and we spend around 90 minutes in each stage; we wake between each cycle whether we are aware of it or not.
Stage One – Drowsiness and falling asleep.
Ask yourself, ‘do you fall asleep within 20 minutes?’ To fall asleep easily we rely on our brain to switch off from wakefulness and activate our sleep centres. If you are overly active before bed, it can affect how easily you fall asleep.
- Deep, regular breathing can help.
- Making a list of all that needs to be done the following day can empty your mind in preparation for sleep.
- Ensuring you have enough time to wind down post exercise is helpful.
- Staying off of screens for 30-60 minutes before bedtime is also useful.
Stage Two – Light Sleep
We spend around 50% of the night in light sleep, we periodically move to Stage One to shift our position, but most of us don’t notice this small amount of wakefulness.
Stage Three – Deep Sleep
This stage is the most fleeting and is where our brain slows down and allows us to deepen our sleep.
Stage Four – REM
REM is the deepest level of sleep and is called this due to the Rapid Eye Movement that occurs during this stage. During this phase our brain is highly active and is where our dreams occur. We usually drift back to Stage 2 and repeat the process during the night.
If you have a sleepless night then experiments have shown that your body tries to make up the deficit the following night. Sleep becomes an issue if your lifestyle habits don’t allow you to catch up on any sleep deficit. This can lead to irritability, fatigue, memory issues and dependency on stimulants such as caffeine to give us the boost we need to get through the day.
Having a good pre-bed wind down process can really help with our sleep habits.
- Stretching is a good way to get your body ready for sleep.
- Meditation helps to prepare the mind for sleep.
- A warm bath and a good book are great ways to relax.
- A herbal bedtime tea can also help to relax and prepare you for bed.
- Staying off screens immediately before bed will stop the brain from becoming over stimulated.
Why not look at your bedtime routine and if you struggle to get off to sleep then try one of these techniques to help you get to sleep .