“The sweet sleep that nourishes life.” As in so many other of things, Shakespeare had it right. Good sleep is one of the bases of a healthy life. It’s when you’re asleep that your body heals itself, repairing tissues and strengthening the immune system. The different stages of sleep have different functions, but a good night’s sleep should be unbroken and comfortable. The average adult needs around seven to nine hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Individuals needs vary, but it is important to get an unbroken night’s sleep.
The stages of sleep
Everyone has heard of the terms REM and non-REM sleep, but what exactly do they mean? REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and refers to the periods of sleep that alternate with non-REM (NREM) periods. The stages of sleep cycle through the three NREM stages and REM sleep, about four or five times in the course of one night.
The first two stages of NREM are preparing for the third or deep sleep phase. In the the first stage of NREM sleep, the sleeper is only partly asleep and can be easily awakened. Stage 2 of NREM is deeper sleep and the sleeper is disoriented if awakened. Stage 3 of NREM is deep sleep, when the body heals itself, repairing and regrowing tissue, building bone and muscle, and strengthening the immune system. It is the most restful stage.
REM sleep is an essential part of the cycle
REM sleep is characterized by rapid eye movements, quickened breathing and heart rates. Though the sleeper is fast asleep, the body appears to be as alert when fully awake. REM periods increase in length over the course of the night, beginning at around 10 minutes ending at 60 minutes. Babies spend about 50% of their time asleep in REM while in adults this decreases to around 20%.
Even thought the sleeper appears alert, it is harder to wake him or her. REM sleep is an essential part of the cycle and experiments have shown that those deprived of it for a period will make up for it afterwards. This is also when dreams occur. The quality of your sleep affects not only your health but also your concentration and your ability to work and perform complex tasks.
Why undisturbed sleep is important
For reasons that are not understood clearly, it is important to go through the stages of sleep with their NREM and REM cycles. If these are broken, the person’s overall health and concentration suffer. People who sleep poorly or whose sleep is broken for some reason, will go through the day feeling tired and unable to concentrate on anything. People who get less than seven hours of sleep a night report falling asleep during the day.
How can a comfortable bed ensure a good night’s sleep? We spend 3,000 hours on average on our mattresses each year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Comfort while sleeping is one of the best ways to ensure unbroken sleep which is so necessary for good health. Sleep position is also important and some kinds of therapeutic beds can be adjusted to allow sleep in an upright position.
A good night’s sleep is nature’s cure for many ills. The type of bed you use, room temperature, noise and light all affect your sleep, and should be adjusted to ensure unbroken sleep. The different stages of sleep are all esential for your overall health and well being.