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Sleep Better, Live Better – Why Deep Slumber Is Important

What Happens When We Sleep Better

Sleep makes up a huge part of our lives (about one-third of it!) and for plenty of good reasons. Not only is it what we need to tackle every single day, it also helps us manage a healthy weight naturally.

Despite being the perpetual partner in life, many still scramble to find the right amount each night. But the good news is, it’s not about how much – it’s about quality. Quality is measured in the amount of time that is spent in stage 3 of your R.E.M phase (rapid eye movement). This is the highest calorie burning place in your sleep cycle and the hardest to fall into. When we sleep better, we restore and renew energy and overall health. In this post I share everything you’ll ever need to know about why sleep is important.

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Falling Into Deep Slumber

Basically, we go through two types of sleep: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Sleep typically begins with the latter, which transitions through different stages.

In its first stage, muscle activity slows down. If you’ve ever wondered why you can still be awakened by noises or other disturbances sometimes after dozing off, it is because of this stage where sleep is still light. In the second stage, eye movements stop. Heart rate starts slowing down and body temperature begins dipping.

Stages 3 and 4 are considered deep sleep. Children wetting the bed or sleep walking tend to do so at these stages. Deep sleep is considered the “restorative” part of sleep that is necessary to feel refreshed and energetic.  It’s also when the body releases more of the growth hormone responsible for muscle growth and repair for us to recover from those kick-ass workouts. 

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The Dreamy Stage

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is the fifth stage where your eyes actually move rapidly in various directions despite the eyelids remaining closed (hence the name). Your breathing also becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase. When REM sleep is disrupted during one night, your body typically makes up for it by increasing its time in the subsequent nights until you catch up.

REM sleep is the well-known one between the two since most dreams make their way here – as a result of increased brain activity. In fact, your arm and leg muscles become paralyzed temporarily so that you cannot “act out” any dreams that you may be having where you can injure yourself.

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Circling Around Like The Ferris Wheel

There are different stages of sleep but they actually don’t happen once in succession, after which you wake up. Stages repeat themselves continuously as you’re sleeping, which happens about 4 to 5 times. The first of REM sleep usually occurs about 60 to 90 minutes after falling asleep.

As the night progresses, time spent in the deep sleep state gets shorter while REM sleep time gets longer. Scientists believe this is important because REM sleep stimulates the brain regions used in learning. As this study finds, people who were taught a skill and then deprived of REM sleep were not able to recall what they learned. And those deprived of non-REM sleep still could! Those who can dip into stage 3 of REM sleep better. This is the goal!

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How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Sleep experts recommend that adults get at least 7 hours per night, and pregnant women will need more than 8 hours. You’ll sleep better with a few simple tweaks to your bedroom with light-blocking curtains, thin pillows, and even fresh plants to make sleeping plain comfortable and easy. As they only keep you awake, remember to lay off those caffeinated drinks hours before bedtime. Alcohol, in particular, robs us of deep sleep and REM sleep in such a way we doze off in the lighter stages.

More importantly, go to bed and get up in the morning to the same schedule. It’s the best feeling to wake up naturally, restored and ready to take on the day.

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Cat Smiley

Cat Smiley

Fitness Director at Whistler Fitness Vacations
Cat Smiley is a certified Life Coach, Master Trainer, Wilderness Guide and Sports Nutritionist (author of The Planet Friendly Diet). She has been named 3-time Canadian Trainer of the Year by the International Sports Science Association and is a former professional athlete. Follow her on Linkedin or Facebook - and of course, sign up for a fitness program with us to work with her in Whistler!
Cat Smiley
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