Sleep is a vital component of overall health. During the sleep cycle, the body goes through different stages, all of which are designed to keep internal systems functioning as they should.
There are five stages of the sleep cycle and each typically occurs within a 90-minute timeframe.
The first two stages are considered light sleep, the third and fourth are deep sleep, and the fifth is rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, the part of the sleep cycle when dreams occur. If the body doesn’t cycle through the sleep stages appropriately, a person can suffer from a variety of different health issues caused by a lack of proper rest.
Why is quality of sleep important?
When people think about sleep, they often focus on how many hours they get in a night – but how long sleep occurs is arguably less important than the quality of sleep one gets. Sleep quality is the main factor in how tired a person is upon waking. For example, getting nine hours of sleep may sound optimal, but a person will only benefit if they wake during the appropriate time during the sleep cycle.
Waking up at the end of a sleep cycle or during one of the light sleep stages is thought to have the greatest impact on wakefulness throughout the day. If a person wakes during REM sleep, they are more likely to feel groggy and tired throughout the day.
How is quality of sleep calculated?
There are four specific ways to determine the quality of sleep a person gets:
- Amount of time in bed
- Amount of time in deep sleep while in bed
- How often one moves and how intense the movements are throughout the night
- How much time a person spent awake throughout the night
For many people, sleep trackers can be used to determine these four factors. Other ways to measure quality of sleep include determining how alert you are upon waking and examining your overall health. Since sleep plays a key role in the health of the mind and body, it can be helpful to consider certain symptoms and determine if they could be attributed to a sleep disturbance. For example, a continuous lack of quality sleep can lead to medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Ways to improve quality of sleep
If you’re wondering how to sleep better at night naturally, the good news is that there are plenty of small steps you can take that are easy and effective. The best home remedies for good sleep include:
Increase your exposure to light during the day
The body functions using its own clock called the circadian rhythm. It plays a vital role in many things such as brain health and hormone balances. Getting natural daylight throughout the day helps the circadian rhythm function as it should. Studies have shown that people with insomnia saw a reduction in their symptoms after being exposed to bright light during the day.
Avoid blue light exposure at night
At night, and especially before bed, exposure to blue light (such as using your phone or watching TV) can have a negative effect on how much sleep you get as well as the quality of that sleep. This is because blue light can fool the brain into thinking that it’s still daytime, thus upsetting the body’s natural circadian rhythm. This also affects the body’s release of melatonin, a sleep hormone, and thus lessens your chance of having a good night’s sleep.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Many people use caffeine to “wake up” in the morning. Some studies have also shown that it can have positive effects on the body, such as enhancing focus. However, if caffeine is ingested too late in the day, the nervous system becomes stimulated and the body has a harder time relaxing.
Alcohol, on the other hand, can contribute to new or worsened sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and disrupted sleep patterns.
Skip the long nap
Some studies suggest that napping can be great for overall health, but the length of the nap is the determining factor on whether it has a positive or negative effect. Daytime sleeping for longer than a quick 20-minute nap can lead to a confused internal clock, which in turn could cause you to struggle to sleep at night time.
Set a sleep schedule
Since the circadian rhythm is on its own sort of loop when it comes to sleep timing, having a consistent sleep schedule will significantly increase your chances of improving your overall quality of sleep. A sleep schedule should be designed to work for you and your lifestyle, and should adhere to the same schedule every night and every morning, even on weekends.
Try a supplement
At-home remedies for good sleep are all well and good, but they can also benefit from supplementation. Since melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that signals your brain to sleep every night, taking a melatonin supplement can have the same effects.
Other supplements that can be taken to help improve overall sleep quality include:
- Ginkgo biloba. This herbal remedy has been found to encourage relaxation and stress reduction.
- Valerian root. Valerian root has been shown to improve sleep quality and help you fall asleep faster.
- Magnesium. Magnesium is vital chemical element that can induce feelings of relaxation, leading to an improvement in sleep quality.
- Lavender. Lavender acts as a sedative and induces feelings of calmness. It has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of insomnia.
Improving your quality of sleep can make a huge difference in your day-to-day life. Good sleep can also lower the risk of developing a weakened immune function, as well as many chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and obesity.
Sleep quality is one of the most important things that determines your overall health. The good news is that getting a good night’s sleep is just a few simple steps away!