The question then is what is healthy sleep?
- Your brain requires a certain amount of time in each stage of sleep. In the first half of the night you go into slow wave sleep which is the deep restful sleep your body needs to health and rejuvenate itself. If you go to bed too late you miss that important part of sleep.
- Every hour and half to two hours you go into REM sleep or rapid eye movements sleep. This is also known as active sleep and is a very light layer of sleep. It is where your brain processes your experiences and emotions and stores them. It is also the part of sleep where you release certain hormones that help you to sleep. One of the issues with REM sleep is that you release a hormone that relaxes your muscles and keeps you from acting out your dreams. If you have a sleep disorder such as snoring or sleep apneas this stage of sleep can become interrupted.
- As the night goes on your REM sleep sessions last longer so if you wake to an alarm and you find that you are having difficulty waking it may be that you are waking during a REM session and you might benefit by changing your alarm by 15 minutes in order to miss this problem.
- When you are not in slow wave sleep or REM sleep you are in non REM sleep. If you have pain issues this can be very disrupted and may cause your brain waves not to slow down properly. Proper pain management is important so you can go into all stages of sleep.
- Medications will affect your sleep significantly. It is not just sleep medications that will disrupt your sleep. Heart medication, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, pain medication and respiratory medications can all affect your sleep staging and your ability to go into slow wave sleep and REM sleep. If you are finding your sleep is disrupted talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the effects of your current medication on your sleep.
- Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster but as it leaves your system it will disrupt your sleep significantly during the important long REM cycles causing your sleep to not be as restorative as it can be. Alcohol is not the friend of sleep.