Hey there. How have you been sleeping lately? Do you feel well rested, recharged and rejuvenated when you get out of bed every morning?
If your answer’s a firm no, you might want to strap in and read on. Let’s talk about sleep — but more importantly, how you can get more deep sleep every night.
Sleep is crucial in allowing our complex bodies to function, rest and recharge, so we can go about our day doing what we need to stay healthy. It also plays a critical role in our physical and mental development.
Did you know? Even after decades of research, the exact reason why we sleep remains one of the most intriguing mysteries in health science. But scientists do agree on one thing: the benefits of a full night’s sleep have been found to affect almost every part of our body, from our brain to our heart, lungs, metabolism rate, immune function, mood, and resistance to diseases.
Recent findings also showed that sleep plays a vital role in removing toxins in the brain, which builds up while we are awake. How clever is that? If all these don't show you how important sleep is to your body, we don’t know what else will.
To find out more about how to get a better night’s sleep, we need to first understand what REM and non-REM sleep is.
Even while you’re sleeping, your body and brain stay extraordinarily active. Sleep isn’t a completely static state of being as the brain continues to work through your sleep cycles.
Once you fall asleep, your body begins the sleep cycle. It is divided into four stages: three non-REM (non-Rapid Eye Movement) stages, and the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage.
At the first stage of non-REM sleep, the body starts to relax. Your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow down, with occasional spikes of activity in your brain and body. This could last anywhere between 1 to 5 minutes, as you start to wind down for the day.
If you aren’t interrupted at this non-REM sleep stage (which easily happens), you quickly move on to stage two of non-REM sleep, where your body temperature starts to drop and your muscles relax further. Your breathing and heartbeat slow down as well, and eye movement stops at this stage. This stage of non-REM sleep can last for around 10 to 25 minutes during the first sleep cycle. You will usually spend around half the night in this stage.
Once stage three of non-REM sleep hits, it’s pretty hard to wake you up. Your brain activity shifts into a pattern called delta waves, or short-wave sleep. Delta sleep can last for 20 to 40 minutes.
Eventually, you’ll reach REM sleep — named as such because of the quick eye movement under your closed eyelids. REM sleep is the deepest stage of sleep, and usually happens around 90 minutes in. It makes up about a quarter of each night’s sleep, alternating with stage three non-REM sleep.
In REM sleep, your brain isn’t relaxed at all. Instead, its activity levels go up to almost the same levels when you are awake. Your heartbeat also becomes faster and irregular during this stage, although your body is largely inactive.
Everyone dreams when asleep, but it is at its most vivid stage during REM sleep. Researchers have observed that our eye movements correspond with what is happening in our dreams, reacting like how we watch movies on screen. In addition, some people dream in colour, while others dream in black and white.
While the exact purpose of dreaming isn’t known, it is said to help us process our emotions. The events that happen while we are awake often stay in our heads even while we are asleep, which leads to a jumble of dream imagery.
We can’t emphasise this enough — sleep is crucial to your health and well-being. Babies sleep at least 16 to 18 hours a day to boost their growth and development. Children and teenagers should, on average, sleep at least 9.5 hours every night, while most adults need around 7 to 9 hours of slumber. But after the age of 60, sleep tends to be shorter, lighter and interrupted by multiple awakenings.
What happens if we don’t get enough, or completely forgo sleep? Your brain loses its ability to focus, pay attention, and be vigilant, making it hard for you to receive new information. You can’t function properly, and struggle to sort information you’ve previously learned from new information.
In fact, researchers have found out that REM sleep appears to play an important part in procedural memory, which is significant in remembering to do something like riding a bike or playing the piano. Aside from that, REM sleep is also important for cognitive functions like memory, learning, and creativity.
You will also find yourself suffering from impaired judgement. You’ll lose the ability to make sound decisions because you can no longer assess situations, make plans accordingly, and respond appropriately to the situation.
Chronic sleeplessness to the point of fatigue or exhaustion prevents us from performing well in our daily tasks and jobs during the day, and can result in accidents and injuries.
Aside from affecting your performance, a lack of sleep also increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, a weakened immune system, mental health concerns, extreme weight gain, and other severe health problems.
The bottom line is, you really need to get enough sleep, and quality sleep!
There are lots of things that distract us from getting the right amount of sleep needed. From too much screen time spent on using computers and scrolling our smartphones, to working night shifts, travelling across time zones, or just having poor sleeping habits. All these keep us from getting a good snooze.
Establishing good sleeping habits is as important as having a balanced diet. If going to sleep naturally is difficult, here are some tips on how you can get a good night's rest.
A room that is too warm can interfere with our sleep, as does a cold one. The optimal bedroom temperature for sleep is approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius). This may vary by a few degrees from person to person, but most doctors recommend keeping the thermostat set between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius) for the most comfortable sleep you’ll ever get.
Our body uses light around us to signal to our internal body clock on whether it is time to wake up or time to sleep, and triggers the release of hormones that promote either alertness or sleep. So try keeping your bedroom dark by turning off the lights when it's time to sleep, or use a lamp if you find it uncomfortable to sleep in complete darkness. Block outside light by installing curtains or blinds on your windows. If all that’s impossible, use a sleep mask to cover your eyes.
Loud or harsh noises can keep you awake or interrupt your sleep. Blackout curtains can help in filtering outside noises, but if that doesn't work, try listening to white noise, relaxing music, or sounds that help you relax (piano playing, sounds of rain, etc).
Before you go to sleep, try keeping these in mind:
There are various prescription and over-the-counter medicines and supplements available to help you with sleep too. But it’s always better to seek advice from a licensed doctor or a health care practitioner first if you think you need to take them. If you’ve obtained a doctor’s approval, you can consider taking supplements that promote sleep, such as melatonin, valerian, magnesium, and ashwagandha.
If you need extra help with getting better sleep, here are some options you can consider:
Magnesium is an essential mineral necessary for every major biological process in our body, including energy production, muscle contraction and relaxation, cardiovascular function and nervous system health. Taken at night, magnesium night powder can help to support brain function and muscle relaxation. It also enhances the body's adaptation to stress, supports refreshing sleep, and helps maintain healthy sleeping patterns.
Another natural sleep aid to consider is Ashwagandha. Also called ‘Indian winter cherry’ or ‘Indian ginseng’, Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs used in Ayurveda (a system of traditional medicine native to India), which has been around for a thousand years as a Rasayana, or tonic. It is traditionally used to enhance the functions of your main and nervous systems, improve memory, and relieve symptoms of stress and mild anxiety.
Ashwagandha is commonly available as a powder that can be consumed as a tea, but also as a supplement. It is used as a natural sleep aid because of its root extract that has been shown to improve sleep quality. It enhances your sleep quality while also reducing the time to fall asleep.
With hustle culture and all of us struggling to maintain busy lifestyles, we often disregard our own personal and physical limitations. But getting enough sleep at night helps to ensure that we perform at our best, and make clear decisions with a sound mind.
If you need more help in resolving your sleep issues, why not take up a multivitamin subscription with Vitable? All you have to do is complete a short online quiz, and you’ll get a vitamin combination personalised to your unique health needs (from over 1.2 million possible combinations) — how amazing is that!
Vitable has all the supplements mentioned above — magnesium night powder, ashwagandha and more. Get home-compostable daily packs delivered straight to your doorstep monthly, for fuss-free ease in getting your vitamin intake sorted.
Made from premium quality ingredients backed by science and proudly made in Australia, there’s no reason to say no to Vitable. Get your custom vitamin packs today so you can start sleeping like a baby every night.
*Always read the label and follow directions for use. If you experience any symptoms or if symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.