How Can You Get More Deep Sleep Cycles?
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
You sleep nightly, but still wake up feeling tired and groggy. What gives? You’re either not getting enough sleep, or you’re not getting enough quality sleep.
Most adults will need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, depending on age and activity level. If you’re sleeping less than seven hours each night, you probably need to get to bed a little earlier. If, however, you’re getting the right amount of sleep and still not feeling refreshed, it could be because your sleep has lost its healing pattern.
To understand how sleep is patterned and why it’s important, we need to understand the basics of sleep architecture, sleep regulation, and what can interfere with both.
Understanding Sleep Architecture
We spend about a third of our lives asleep, but most of us think of sleep as simply a period of unconsciousness, highlighted by dreams, that helps us feel rested in the morning. For those of us who experience sleep problems, it can be frustrating to understand why something so natural can be so elusive.
There are two different kinds of sleep, non-rapid eye movement, or “NREM” sleep, and rapid eye movement sleep, or “REM.” We cycle through both types of sleep about 4-5 times each night, entering sleep through NREM, and cycling through to REM and back to NREM again.
Researchers aren’t sure why we cycle through these sleep phases, but they know it’s important that we do, and that it’s important our sleep follows a specific pattern. People who suffer from sleep disorders like narcolepsy enter sleep during the incorrect phase, immediately entering REM sleep instead of NREM.
Most of our sleep is spent in NREM sleep. The first cycle of NREM sleep usually lasts between 70-100 minutes, and each consecutive phase is longer, lasting between 90-120 minutes.
There are four phases of NREM sleep.
Stage 1 of NREM sleep is the point at which we enter our sleep cycle. When you lay in bed, feeling relaxed, you may be aware of feeling slightly between sleep and wakefulness. This is the onset of stage 1 sleep.
During this phase, it’s easy to wake you up, as brain waves transition from alert and awake to restful and unconscious. This stage usually lasts between 1-7 minutes, getting longer with each repetitive sleep cycle.
Stage 2 sleep follows stage 1, and is characterized by the presence of sleep spindles when brain waves are measured by electroencephalography, or “EEG.” Sleep spindles aren’t completely understood, but researchers have determined they have at least three important roles:
They indicate deeper sensory suppression, which means it’s harder to wake you from this stage of sleep.
Sleep spindles show your brain is processing and consolidating information you have learned during your day, filing it into your long-term memory.
New motor skills are refined and established.
While this stage of sleep usually only lasts between 10-25 minutes, it’s incredibly important for your brain health and for learning and understanding.
Stage 3 together with stage 4 are referred to as slow wave sleep, or “SWS.” These two stages of NREM sleep are your deepest, but only account for 3-8% of your total night of sleep. Stage 3 sleep may only last a few minutes, but during this stage and stage 4, your body does the majority of its cellular, tissue, and organ repair work.
Stage 4 sleep lasts 20-40 minutes during the first cycle, getting progressively longer with each subsequent cycle. During stage 4, your senses are most suppressed, which means it’s the hardest to wake you during this stage.
The final stage of each sleep cycle is REM sleep. REM sleep brain activity is similar to wakeful brain activity, with irregular patterns that indicate more wakeful brain function.
During this stage, your muscles are temporarily paralyzed, and you experience dreams. The first cycle of REM is extremely short, sometimes lasting only between 1-3 minutes. Each consecutive cycle is longer, but in total, you only spend about 10 minutes in REM each cycle.
What Regulates Your Sleep?
There are two processes that regulate your sleep: your circadian rhythm and your sleep drive. Both work together to help you stay awake when you should be awake, and sleep when your body needs rest.
This drive is like a tank that gradually fills during the day. When the tank is full, it is time to sleep. When you wake up after a good night’s sleep, your sleep drive tank is essentially empty.
Throughout your day, as you expend energy, stay awake, and remain alert, your sleep drive tank fills, increasing your need for rest. By the end of the day, your sleep drive tank should be so full you become tired enough to sleep.
However, there are many activities, lifestyle choices, and conditions that can interfere with your sleep drive. Using stimulants like caffeine, taking naps, not using up enough energy, and not sleeping well the night before all cause changes to your sleep drive that may make it impossible for you to feel tired when you should.
Your circadian rhythm operates on a 24-hour cycle of sleep and wakefulness. It counterbalances your sleep drive, helping you stay awake during the day and prepare for sleep at night. Your circadian rhythm responds to light cues, signaling your pineal gland to release melatonin when the sun goes down, and cortisol when the sun comes up.
Living in areas where there are numerous months of continuous light or darkness, regularly working night shifts, and jet lag can all affect circadian rhythm.
Getting More Deep Sleep Cycles
Even though waking up tired might lead you to believe you aren’t getting enough “deep” sleep, the real problem is likely that you aren’t properly cycling through your sleep phases. All sleep phases are important for your total health and wellness.
If you feel you’re sleeping enough hours but still not feeling rested, you can take some steps to prepare your body for better sleep and help “reset” your sleep patterns.
Caffeine can interfere with your sleep regulators, and cause you to stay more alert during your sleep phases. Caffeine also has a half-life, so even if you drink coffee early in the morning, half the caffeine from that single cup can remain in your system five hours later.
Unfortunately, using caffeine is common among people who don’t sleep well. Limiting caffeine or establishing a cutoff time in the day at which point you’ll stop drinking caffeine can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more restfully.
Use Up Your Energy
Making sure you use up enough energy during your day can help you get better sleep at night. Your sleep drive depends on the expenditure of energy throughout the day. If you aren’t using up enough energy each day, your sleep drive won’t build, and your body won’t be tired enough for rest.
Studies show that exercise helps us fall asleep more quickly and improves the quality of our sleep. Generally, prolonged aerobic exercise has shown the most benefits to improving sleep, although resistance exercise (weight lifting) have also shown benefit.
You’ve heard it said you shouldn’t use your smartphone before bed, and it’s true. First, the blue light emitted from your tablets and smartphones can interfere with your circadian rhythm. Secondly, the media you watch on these devices can stimulate your brain for hours after you finish watching it, which can interfere with brain activity during sleep.
Use a Supplement
Most of us have a go-to solution for not sleeping. We reach for melatonin, or some sleep aid made from drowsiness-inducing allergy ingredients. While these tools can help on occasion, using them regularly may not be the best option for getting to sleep and staying asleep.
A better option is a recently discovered, odd-chain, essential, saturated fatty acid that has been shown to have multiple benefits to our health, including improving our sleep.
Deeper Sleep, the Fatty15 Way
Supporting your sleep naturally so you can get deeper, adequate rest is a better goal in terms of sleep hygiene. Fatty15 is a breakthrough supplement that is research-backed, scientifically developed, and proven to naturally active PPAR receptors that have been shown to improve our quality of sleep.
Fatty15 contains just one ingredient: FA15™, the pure, vegan-friendly version of C15:0.
This little fatty acid is found naturally in milk fat, and researchers have linked it to numerous health benefits like:
- Healthy heart function
- Balanced immunity
- Healthy metabolism and liver function
- Healthy sleep, mood, and appetite homeostasis
You can trust fatty15 to deliver. With more than 20 peer-reviewed studies in 2021 alone, fatty15 is your single source for high quality, pure, vegan friendly C15:0.
Get Some Rest
Sleep is more complicated than simply knocking out at the end of the day. It’s a vital part of our body and brain health, and ensuring we get enough quality sleep is important.
Make a decision to help safeguard your sleep and support your entire body. Fatty15 is the easy to take, once-a-day supplement that helps you achieve better health, one restful night at a time.
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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