We get it. There’s nothing better than an extra 30 minutes of sleep on a warm, cozy bed.
But did you know that it could actually make you more tired?
I know, it sounds counterintuitive. More sleep = more tired doesn’t seem like an equation that makes sense, but hear me out.
I was burning the midnight oil to launch my company Rype, where members can book private French, Mandarin, Spanish lessons on-the-go. But my sleep was completely out of wack. Some nights I would only get 2-3 hours of sleep, while other nights I would get 10, and still feel exhausted. If you can relate, I hope to share the 5 different stages of sleep we all experience, and some actionable tips to help you sleep better!
The 5 Stages of Sleep
It turns out that there are 5 major sleep stages that we all go through during the night. Starting with…
Stage 1 (NREM)
In this first stage, you’re in a NREM (non-rapid eye moment) stage. This is when you’re floating in and out of consciousness. It’s that moment when you feel awake but you also notice your mind is drifting away. You may also feel your muscle jerk that wakes you up into consciousness, also known as hypnic myoclonia.
Stage 2 (NREM)
Stage 2 is when you start to enter the lighter phases of sleep. About half of our sleep time is spent during this NREM stage. This is when your muscle and heart rate begins to relax, and your brain slowly dwindles down.
Stage 3 & 4 (NREM)
These next two stages are combined as they have very similar effects on your sleep, called slow wave sleep (SWS). This is known as the deepest part of the sleep cycle, and one must not be woken up during this stage. If you’ve ever been abruptly woken up in a groggy state, you were probably experiencing slow wave sleep.
The other reason why SWS is vital is because the body rejuvenates itself during this stage. Growth hormones are released, which is used to heal muscle and tissues, and provides important oxygen and nutrients to the body.
Fun fact: these are also the stages when children (or adults) experience sleep walking and bedwetting.
Stage 5 (REM)
This is the final stage of the sleep cycle, and the only stage where you experience REM (rapid eye moment) sleep. While we only spend 20% of our time during this stage, it’s when the brain is most active. It’s likely the most important stage as well because the brain is revitalized for daytime functioning.
The majority of our dreams are also occuring in this final stage of sleep, and the brain waves appear as if we’re awake.
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality
The real question is, how do we actually sleep better? I’ve spent hundreds of dollars and hours experimenting with different solutions, and these are the best tips I have found to be helpful.
1. Block blue light
In the digital world we live in today, the majority of poor sleep quality is due to what’s known as blue light. Studies show that we spend on average 10.5 hours a day in front of our screens (i.e. smartphones, TV, laptops) 1. Each of these screens emit harmful blue light that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormone. In short, this tricks our brain to feel ‘awake’ when we should be in relaxed mode.
The best way to combat this effectively is to invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) that you can wear while you work, and 90 minutes before you sleep.
Recommended: iGOTHAM Computer Glasses
2. Adjust your room temperature
Sleep experts have shown that room temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for the best sleep. A room with extreme temperatures leads to more frequent awakenings and lighter sleep.
This can be extremely difficult if you have a sleeping partner, which is why I recommend Chilipad. It’s a heating and cooling pad that you place underneath your bedsheets. Best of all, you can place it just on your side of the bed so you can customize the best temperature for you, without disturbing your sleeping partner.
3. Optimize for REM sleep
Given how important REM sleep is in our sleep stage, we should optimize our sleep time around it. The best way to do that is to
It turns out that our sleep cycle contains a REM stage every 90 minutes. That means if you know when you want to wake up (ex. 6 am), then you want to work backwards in 90 minute increments to find out when to sleep.
If your goal is to wake up at 6 am, then you will likely need to fall asleep at 10:30 pm or 12:00 am to meet the 90 minute rule. You can also use a sleep calculator to make this process more automated.
Recommended: Sleepyti.me (sleep calculator)
I hope this was useful for those of you that struggle with getting quality sleep in your life. As someone who has struggled with insomnia, these tips are dear to my heart.
Like many of you, I procrastinated on taking action in improving my sleep. But I can tell you from personal experience the positive impact it has had in my life, once I put these tips into action.
My recommendation is to try out at least one of these tips. Once you notice the positive effects in your sleep, you can try another, and so forth.