Quality vs Quantity. Why a good night’s sleep matters.
You spend about one third of your life sleeping. That’s more than 25 years. Read those last two sentences again. Wild, right? Sleep is absolutely essential to our survival. Read about how sleep affects overall your physical, emotional and social wellness here.
When it comes to setting sleep goals, we often focus on measuring the hours we are in bed. Number of hours is definitely important when looking at our sleep schedule but so is measuring soundness. In this article, we dig into the quality vs quantity of sleep and how to maximize both so you are drifting into a satisfying sleep night after night.
Is 7 hours really enough? The right amount of sleep depends largely on age. How much sleep you need will also vary depending on your lifestyle, bodily chemistry and health habits. For the most part, healthy adults need 7-9 hours per night. Meaning, 7 hours might NOT be enough for you! The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following sleep recommendations by age:
- Infants need roughly 12-17 hours.
- Toddlers/Preschoolers need 10-14 hours.
- Teens need 8-10 hours.
- Most adults need 7-9 hours.
We talk about the quantity of sleep often, but not all sleep is created equal. You might be getting the allotted 7-9 hours, but what about the quality of your sleep? Measuring sleep quality is not as much of a science as measuring quantity, but The Sleep Foundation came up with a general list of what high quality sleep looks like. Check the list below to see if you’re getting a good quality snooze:
- You fall asleep pretty soon after getting into bed (within 30 minutes or less).
- You typically sleep straight through the night, waking up no more than once during your snooze.
- You’re able to sleep the recommended amount of hours for your age group.
- You fall back asleep within 20 minutes if you do wake up.
- You feel rested, restored, and energized upon waking up in the morning (or at least one of those!)
If you read the above list and thought “I wish! That sounds dreamy” (pun intended), YOU AREN’T ALONE! So many of us aren’t getting enough quality sleep. For a healthy sleep, you need to go through four stages of sleep and they must all be sufficient (quality AND quantity). Let’s try to understand these stages of sleep that could lead us closer to a healthier sleep cycle.
Stages of Sleep
Within the 7-9 hours asleep, your brain is going through natural cycles of activity. There are two basic stages of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep (NREM). You cycle through these stages multiple times each night.
- Stage 1 consists of the several minutes you drift from wakefulness to sleep. This is a short, light, non-REM sleep. You will start to relax and dream with occasional twitching. Your brain waves begin to slow from their daily activity.
- Stage 2 NREM sleep is a light sleep that comes before deep sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing slow down and your muscles relax even further. You spend more of your sleep cycle in stage 2 than any other stage.
- Stage 3 is a period of NREM deep sleep that is essential for feeling refreshed in the morning. Your heartbeat and breathing are at their lower levels and it may be difficult to awaken you.
- REM (rapid eye movement) sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Your brain is almost as active in REM as when you are awake. The majority of your dreams occur and it is thought to play a role in memory, learning and mood.
Each of these stages serve a different purpose. Your body isn’t hitting each of these sleep stages only once per night, nor does it spend equal amounts of time in each stage. On average, your body goes through four to six sleep cycles each night. Each stage is important to achieve a healthy sleep cycle.
How to Have a Healthier Sleep Cycle
The best way to enhance both NREM and REM sleep is to focus on sleep hygiene. Sleep Hygiene refers to healthy sleep habits and a comfortable sleep environment. Achieving a consistent sleep schedule, creating a peaceful bedroom atmosphere, limiting alcohol and food intake at night, exercising during the day, limiting nighttime electronic use and having a wind down routine are all ways to improve your sleep hygiene. Some ways to wind down with Vena include a Calming Chamomile and Lavender soak bath, manuka honey moisturizer and a Restful Night Capsule (a great isolate option that blends CBD with Melatonin and Magnesium).
Sleep is an elemental part of whole body health and it is important that we are getting both the right quality and quantity of sleep.
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