The first step to getting a good night’s rest is knowing how sleep works.
Sleep happens in cycles of repeating stages. Together, these stages make up your sleep architecture. It’s a fragile framework, and everything from diet, exercise and stress to your bedroom environment can protect or disrupt this architecture.
While You Were Sleeping
During healthy sleep, your brain goes through two stages of nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, one more stages of NREM sleep called slow-wave or deep sleep, and one stage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
During NREM sleep, your body winds down. Heart rate slows, brain activity decreases, body temperature drops and nerve activity lessens. During deep sleep, there is no muscle or eye movement at all. Deep sleep is the more restorative stage of sleep. It’s hard to wake up during deep sleep, and when you do, you tend to feel groggy and unrested. The REM stage comes next, typically occurring 70–90 minutes after you fall asleep. During the REM stage, many parts of your body become more active again, including the motor and sensory areas of your brain. Most dreams occur during REM sleep.
Needless to say, sleep is complex. But with the right sleep habits, it doesn’t have to be elusive.
Not a morning person? A sleep cycle tracking app may help. They’re designed to wake you up at the end of your REM stage, when you feel most alert and rested.
Concerned your sleep may be affecting your health? Discuss your sleep quality with your doctor.