Sleep is a cycle, it is important to regulate that cycle to be able to get the healthiest amount of sleep possible. So what does a healthy sleep cycle look like, and how much deep sleep do you need every night to feel refreshed in the morning?
The Sleep Cycle
Let's first discuss the sleep cycle. There are four stages of sleep which builds the refreshed feeling we crave.
1. Stage One: This is a transition stage in which your body and brain relax while the mental state shifts from being awake to being asleep. This is a very short period of time, usually lasting a couple minutes. This period of time is when it is the easiest to wake up from as your brain has not shifted to the state of sleep.
This stage is when your body begins to relax such as; heart-rate, breathing, muscles, and eye movements. Occasionally people twitch in this state this is called hypnic jerks, but these are muscle twitches just like hiccups.
2. Stage Two: This stage is much like the first stage, where it is a lighter sleep transitioning into a deeper sleep.
Your body continues to relax with the heart-rate and breathing slowing down, your core temperature drops in this stage as well. Your brain waves begin to slow down, but in this stage the brain still has little bursts of electrical signals. You spend most of your night in a repeated stage two cycle.
3. Stage Three: This is the Non-REM deep sleep, this is the type of sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning. This stage starts during the first half of the night and occurs for the majority of this half.
Brain waves, heart-rate, and breathing reach their lowest possible point and your muscles relax as you are in the most refreshing stage of sleep.
4. Stage Four: This the REM deep sleep, (the stage of dreams), this the final stage of the sleep cycle. This stage will start about an hour and a half after you have reached stage two. Your brain waves become very active and your eyes begin to move.
Most dreaming is in this stage, your body will neutralize your muscles to keep you from physically responding to your dreams. Your heart-rate and breathing will increase almost matching those of when you’re awake. You spend about two hours in this stage.
Your sleep cycle lasts about 90-120 minutes, this may change with age, and while every part of the sleep cycle is important, you can benefit from getting at least one hour of deep sleep each night. To get one hour of deep sleep you will need to sleep somewhere between seven to nine hours every night. In fact, this is why it is recommended that young adults (18-25) to older adults (65 or more) need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. These hours are important keys to not just physical health, but emotion and mental as well.
Why is Deep Sleep Important?
- The body releases growth hormones while deep sleeping, this is extremely for natural growth and muscle repair.
- The brain has to clear metabolic waste through the lymphatic system which will then boost memory and optimize the immune system.
- Not getting enough deep sleep may have harmful effects on blood pressure and can lead to heart attacks. Your heart needs the rest.
- The rested feeling is necessary for your mood, not getting enough refreshing deep sleep can leave you irritable and moody.
- Deep refreshing sleep is proven to increase productivity, without deep sleep the brain is left feeling foggy.
- Helps your metabolism work and keeps you at a healthy weight.
How To Get the Best Amount of Sleep?
Create a Sleep Sanctuary
- Turn up the air conditioning! The perfect sleeping temperature is 60-72 degrees fahrenheit, (or 15-22 degrees celsius). The slight temperature drop may help drop your core temp, which will make you fall asleep faster.
Be careful to not place the temp too hot or too cold, this cold causes your body to struggle which will only further sleep problems. Play with different temperatures and see which one your body likes the most.
- Envelope yourself in darkness! Close your curtains, put your phone on do not disturb mode. These lights cause your brain to stay awake. Darkness can limit distractions from what you should be focusing on, sleep.
- Essential Oils. These are natural aids to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Put a drop or two of the following oils and relax, as the oils improve relaxation.
- Lavender: Calms mood and offers sedative effects.
- Chamomile: Calming, reducing stress.
- Bergamot: Lowers heart rate and blood pressure and helps with anxiety and stress, allowing you to get to sleep.
- Clary Sage: A natural sedative that may reduce your cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone.
- Valeria: Can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
- Sandalwood: A sedative that aids in relaxation and calms anxiety.
- Ylang ylang: A sedative that can have calming effects to relieve anxiety.
- Jasmine: Helps restless sleeping, improving the quality of your sleep.
- Frankincense: Promotes relaxation to calm the body.
You may not like some of these, but try them out, try our different combinations. Your body will show you what it needs!
Keep your sleep space clean and free from work/school items! Nothing stresses the mind out like a dirty space. Keeping your space clean may be the make or break to your sleep! Also, remove work or school related items from your room/sleep space.
Our brains identify rooms with the activities that we do, so if you do your work in your room, your brain will not identify your room as a sleep sanctuary, instead it will be more like an office causing you to continue to stress. Keep work in its space and sleep in its space.
Exercise not only increases the need for sleep, but also exercise gives off endorphins which keep people awake and active. It is recommended that you exercise 30 minutes everyday, 1 to 2 hours before bed to experience the full benefits of exercising for better sleep.
Follow A Schedule
Following a Schedule encourages more healthy sleep practices, Start a schedule and follow it! Begin Exercising at 9:30, Shower and get ready for bed until 10, read until 10:30, and then head to bed. This encourages a healthy lifestyle, which will also improve your sleep cycle as well.
Deep sleep is absolutely necessary for normal day-today function. You need the full 90-120 min sleep cycle in order to get any deep sleep. You only spend a small amount of this cycle getting deep sleep, which is why it is important to get into good sleep habits and get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Over these hours of sleep you’ll go through the sleep cycle enough times to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day!
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.