“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker
Whether you're young or old, overweight or underweight, tall or short, male or female, you need restful sleep. When your body is well-rested, it's able to deal better with the stress and strain of everyday life than when you're struggling to stay awake after a bad night’s sleep. Restful sleep is essential to your physical and mental health.
Sleep and your immune system
According to Diwakar Balachandran, MD, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, sleep deprivation can inhibit immune system function. (https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/immune-system-lack-of-sleep - 1) Sleep loss leads to the developing high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a key marker of bodily inflammation. CRP has been implicated in the development of heart disease. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, sleep and the circadian system (your natural body clock) exert a strong regulatory influence on immune functions.
Since sleep plays such a critical role in your health, it's important to understand how sleep occurs, and what you can do to make sure you're getting the quality sleep you need.
Sleep Cycles and Sleep Stages
Sleep occurs in 5 stages, 4 non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stages, and one REM stage. Together, the stages make up a sleep cycle. While your first sleep cycle usually takes about 90 minutes, subsequent ones last between 100 and 120 minutes. Most people will experience four to five sleep cycles per night.
Light Sleep (Stage 1 - Stage 2)
Stage 1 sleep is a transitory stage between sleeping and waking. If you're awakened during this stage, you might claim you were never "really asleep." Typically, this stage is very short, sometimes lasting under a minute. As you begin to sleep more deeply, you transition to Stage 2. During Stage 2 sleep, your heart rate slows, and your body temperature drops as you prepare to enter deep sleep. Fun Fact: You spend nearly half your sleeping time in Stage 2 sleep.
Deep Sleep (Stage 3)
As you enter Stage 3 sleep, your brainwaves begin to slow down, and you become more oblivious to most sleep disturbances (noises and movements) without showing any reaction. As you fall deeper and deeper asleep, you enter Delta Sleep.
Delta Sleep (Stage 4)
Delta Sleep is profound, dreamless sleep, and usually lasts for around 30 minutes. In Delta Sleep, there is no eye movement or muscle activity.
REM Sleep (Stage 5)
Once you've slept for around 90 minutes, you'll begin to enter Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. The REM cycle is the one in which you'll experience your strongest dreams. Your heartbeat may rise, and your breathing may become irregular. While your brainwaves slow during the first four stages of sleep, during REM sleep your brainwave activity increases and your brain activity looks more like your waking state than the other stages of sleep. As your time spent sleeping increases, so does the length of each REM period.
To make sure you're getting the right amount of restful sleep and getting through and adequate number of sleep cycles, practice the following steps:
- Stick to a schedule. Irregular bedtimes lead to poor sleep quality.
- Make your nighttime a relaxing ritual. Take a relaxing bath and spend time away from bright lights, particularly computer screens, smartphones, tablets, and televisions.
- If you have a difficult time falling asleep at night, avoid afternoon naps.
- Exercise regularly, but avoid intense exercise in the evenings, and stop exercising at least one hour before bed.
- Make sure your sleeping environment has the right conditions for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool, dark, and noise-free. If you need sounds to fall asleep, invest in a "white noise" generator (or get a free app for your smartphone).
- Make sure your bed is comfortable and supports your body, especially on pressure points. Your bed should stay cooL, and transfer as little motion as possible from your sleeping partner.
The Halcyon Foam Mattress from Gelfoambed is your best bet to ensure a healthy and restful night's sleep. Not only does the Halcyon Foam Mattress provide exceptional support, it’s the only mattress that incorporates supportive air technology, motioning dampening, and temperature regulation to ensure you get the best night’s sleep of your life.