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If you’re lucky, you’ll fall asleep as soon as your ear touches your pillow and wake up fresh and fruity the next day. Sounds simple, that sleep. Still, a lot of things happen while you are having a good nap and it is also important that everything happens in the right order. We are talking about the sleep phases and the sleep cycle. In this article you can read everything about a healthy sleep pattern and what you can do if you are not the best sleeper.
Table of contents
One sleep cycle consists of several sleep phases. According to some sleep experts, there are four stages of sleep, and according to others, there are five. The first step is the slumber phase and then comes the light sleep. Next to last you have the deep sleep and your sleep cycle is completed with the REM sleep. There is still a transitional phase between light and deep sleep, which is not mentioned everywhere. That is why sometimes people talk about four sleep phases and sometimes about five. When you’ve gone through all the sleep stages, you’ve completed a complete sleep cycle. Time to wake up? No, I’d rather not. For good quality sleep you have to go through a number of sleep cycles undisturbed.
You can also get it when you hang out on the couch in the evening after a long working day. Your eyes close and the sound of the television fades into the background. You hover a bit between being awake and sleeping. You can still hear everything and if someone says something to you, you are, with some effort, still able to respond to it. That’s the sleep phase. Every sleep cycle starts with this. Brain activity decreases and your body relaxes. This phase lasts one to three minutes and then you reach phase two of the sleep cycle. If falling a sleep isn’t so easy for you, we recommend to read the following artical.
The second stage of your sleep cycle is light sleep. You no longer wake up so quickly to sounds from your environment. Because the brain activity in this phase decreases even further, you do have the feeling that you are mentally relaxed when something wakes you up now. This sleep phase lasts half an hour to fifty minutes and then you enter the third sleep phase of your sleep cycle: the transition phase.
The transition phase from light sleep to deep sleep only takes five minutes. Your breathing becomes regular, your body relaxes and your heart rate drops.
And then, without even realizing it, you slide from the transition phase into deep sleep. Your heart rate, breathing, brain activity and muscle tone are now at the very lowest level. In this sleep phase you are almost impossible to wake up and if it does happen, you are often equally disoriented when you wake up.
This sleep phase is important for your immune system. During deep sleep, your recovery capacity is greatest and your brain gets the most rest. The deep sleep phase lasts about twenty minutes and at the beginning of your night’s sleep, the deep sleep lasts longer than later in your sleep cycle. In fact, at the very end of your sleep cycle, you won’t have any deep sleep at all.
By the way, did you know that the protein amyloid is removed during deep sleep? According to researchers, this protein is the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. So you better get away from that!
The fifth sleep phase is really a special one: you now use as much energy as when you are awake and your eyes move under your closed eyelids. In this phase you are really in dreamland and that is why REM sleep is important to be able to process your emotions properly.
It is sometimes thought that you only dream during the fifth stage of sleep, but that is not entirely true. You can also dream in other stages of sleep, but during REM sleep, your dreams are usually more vivid and emotional. Those dreams cause the emotional charge of a memory to decrease. At least, if you can go through this phase calmly. If that doesn’t happen, your emotions and memories will be less able to process.
The duration of REM sleep varies from five minutes to three quarters of an hour. Typically, REM sleep is shorter at the beginning of your sleep cycle and longer as the night progresses. After REM sleep, the whole cycle of sleep phases starts all over again, except for the falling asleep phase, when you sleep through the night in one go, you only have it when you have just crawled into bed. At the end of sleep, you skip deep sleep and go from REM sleep to light sleep until the alarm wakes you up again. Or the birds. Or, at best, from your sweetheart who brings you a cup of coffee.
To fall asleep well, your sleep-wake rhythm is very important. That is your 24-hour rhythm and determines your sleeping pattern: when you fall asleep and when you wake up. Melatonin plays an important role in this. As soon as it gets dark, a gland in your brain secretes melatonin and daylight inhibits the production of melatonin. External factors, such as the well-known blue light from your phone, can inhibit the production of melatonin, while you really need that substance to fall asleep. Stress, medicines or an irregular lifestyle can also disrupt the production of melatonin, making it difficult for you to fall asleep.
If you want to improve your sleep cycle, it is important to go to sleep in a cool, quiet and dark room, not to look at your phone right before going to sleep and especially not to drink too much alcohol before going to bed. You may fall asleep quickly with such a ‘nightcap’, but alcohol has a negative effect on your REM sleep, so you wake up less rested. Even if you obediently leave that phone downstairs and lead a very relaxed and regular life, you can have problems falling asleep due to a mattress that is too hard, too soft or too warm, a pillow that is not comfortable or a bed base that sags to the floor. when you lie on it. Well, if you torture your body like this, it is understandable that you cannot really relax and your sleeping pattern is quite disturbed. Do you find it difficult to fall asleep and does everything hurt when you wake up? Then it could just be that your mattress or bed base has seen better days.
If your sleeping pattern is hampered by a bad mattress or worn-out bed base, it is definitely worth looking for a bed and mattress that perfectly suits your body. Get good advice from one of our experts and choose a mattress with an exchange guarantee. That way you don’t run any risk of a bad buy and that is also beneficial for your night’s sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are 5 sleep stages. The sleep phase, light sleep, transition phase to deep sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep.
All sleep phases together form a complete sleep cycle. This cycle lasts about one and a half to two hours. In an average night it is run about 4 times. You also sometimes wake up after each cycle.
This is the rhythm with which you normally switch between sleeping and being awake. Usually people need something like 7-8 hours of sleep and this happens between 11pm and 7am.
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