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The Secret to Better Sleep: Learning Your Sleep Cycle

Having trouble dozing off – or staying asleep – at night? Assuming medical conditions like insomnia and sleep apnoea aren’t to blame, how is it then, that sleep seems to be an enemy instead of an ally that rejuvenates your energy and heals your body every night?

Before diving into possible causes and solutions, it’s important to understand how your sleep cycle works.

The 4 stages of sleep

There are four stages of sleep that we go through every night. Sleep researchers have derived this knowledge based on analyses of brain activity during sleep and observing the distinct patterns that appear in each of these stages.

Stage 1: Dozing off

We’re all familiar with this stage of the sleep process. It’s when we first start to doze off, and typically lasts for only a few minutes. During this first stage of sleep, your body isn’t fully relaxed, and brain activity only begins slowing down slightly.

We can easily be awoken during this time – either by noise or someone gently nudging us. However, in the absence of any disturbance, we’ll naturally move on to stage two within five minutes.

Stage 2: Moving into deeper sleep

At this stage, our heart rate slows down and our core body temperature drops. We typically spend half our sleeping time in this stage, making it the longest stage of the sleep cycle.

Stage 3: Deep sleep

Commonly known as deep sleep, this is the stage where the body is completely relaxed and in full “restorative mode”. This is an incredibly useful stage of the sleep cycle, as it accelerates recovery and growth, while strengthening our immune system.

Stage 4: REM sleep

REM (or rapid eye movement) sleep is the final stage of the sleep cycle. Experts believe that this stage of sleep is essential to functions like memory and creativity. This is when brain activities are increased, and dreams become more vivid.

How sleep cycles are (typically) screwed up

While nature has designed our sleep cycles to heal and refresh us, many times, bad habits can negatively impact this once-perfect system.

And these are often the biggest culprits:

Alcohol, caffeine

Your diet can certainly affect your sleep cycles, so be aware of what you’re consuming (and how your food/drinks are affecting you). While alcohol can make you feel tired and sleepy initially, it can also make it more difficult to stay asleep.

Meanwhile, caffeine can have a longer-lasting effect than many people realise. Even drinking a cup of coffee in the late afternoon, can affect your sleep at night – reducing the amount of time you spend in stage 3 and stage 4 sleep, robbing you of restorative sleep and leaving you feeling tired the next day.

Medical conditions

Medical issues like insomnia, sleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome can wreck sleeping cycles by interrupting cycles (and forcing them to reset midway through) – or extending certain cycles (like stage 1 sleep) beyond their expected length, decreasing the amount of time spent in the recovery stages of your sleep cycle.

Should you suffer from any of these, please see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment – your health depends on it.

Irregular sleeping habits

It’s no surprise that people on shift duty often report having poor quality sleep. But with more people working from home, it’s becoming increasingly common to see more professionals suffer from poor sleep too – as irregular working hours affect their sleeping habits, leading to less healthy sleep cycles.

Light exposure

Light can easily trick our brains into thinking that it’s a lot earlier in the day than it actually is, and that’s a big problem today as we carry our smartphones and tablets into bed with us. Instead of winding down, the light sends signals to our brains that it’s still daytime – so even after your devices are turned off, lying down on your bed may not trigger stage 1 sleep.

Tips for better sleep

Now that we’ve identified some common factors that affect our sleep cycles, it’s time to make some positive changes! These are some ways you can start sleeping better and waking up feeling refreshed every morning.

Skip the snooze

The snooze button is perhaps one of the most useless – yet overused – inventions of all time. Science shows that the only thing the snooze button does is disrupt our sleep cycle, making us feel more tired every time we hit it. Read our article on the snooze button if you’re interested to learn more.

In the meantime, skip the snooze and get up once the alarm rings – you’ll feel much more energetic throughout the day.

Track how you sleep

These days, it’s easy to keep track of your sleep cycles with the vast selection of wearables that have sleep functionality built in.

You can use technology to see how much of each stage of sleep you’re getting every night. But more importantly, you should use it to track your sleeping habits – especially your sleeping time and number of hours slept every night. Keep these consistent to build healthy sleeping habits.

Get comfortable in bed

The quality of your mattress and pillows can also have a big impact on the quality of your sleep – and how well your body recovers. And because we spend a third of our lives in bed, it’s essential that you choose a mattress that you – and your body – absolutely loves.

Latex mattresses are especially known for their plush comfort, firm support and outstanding durability – a combination that’s not seen in other types of mattresses.

And if you’re choosing a Sofzsleep mattress, you have an even wider range of choices and further levels of customisability, thanks to a diverse selection of latex mattresses (including a Trilogy series that allows you to change the level of firmness you want at any time, by simply switching between the three layers of latex inside), latex mattress toppers, and accessories.

To experience the plush, supportive comfort of a Sofzsleep latex mattress for yourself, visit any of our showrooms.

Sleep better, today

We hope this newfound understanding of your sleep cycle – and the factors can that affect it – allows you to enjoy better, more restorative nights. Sleep tight!