Understanding the sleep cycle – how well do you sleep?

To be completely rested after sleep you should get at least seven hours sleep consistently every night. You also need to experience all four of the body’s natural sleep cycles.

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Interrupted sleep or no rest at all can lead to health problems which can affect your body and your mind. Understanding the sleep cycle better can help you achieve the needed sleep time you may well crave.


One of the easiest ways to ensure you enjoy a good night’s sleep is to rest on a comfortable bed and in a relaxing bedroom. You can’t sleep properly on a bumpy mattress.

New research into melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone, shows that if you are exposed to bright lights and flashing computers before turning in for a night’s rest, you may find it more difficult to nod off too.



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Sleep is the time when your body can restore itself, your skin re-hydrates and your brain can process all of the previous day’s activities.

Sleep is divided into Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and REM stages. When you first put your head down your body will enter NREM stage 1, your sleep will become progressively deeper until you hit NREM3/4. By this stage your heart will have slowed down and your body temperature will drop.

If you wake up or are woken up at this stage you may well feel grumpy and disorientated. People who complain that they feel as if they haven’t slept will have been roused at this stage and a comfortable bed is another essential component of a satisfying night’s sleep.



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During NREM the body restores muscle fatigue and the immune system is also bolstered. Anyone who has woken up with dark circles under their eyes mightn’t have received sufficient NREM sleep as this is the time when skin and body cells regenerate.

Too little NREM sleep and you will find it difficult to concentrate when you wake up.


The final stage of the sleep cycle is the REM stage. This is when we dream and the body is in a lighter sleep. Your brain will be active, and this is often the time when we process learning and new ideas that may have been absorbed during the day.

Each of the sleep cycles lasts around 1.5 hours and you should experience around 5/6 cycles in order to wake up refreshed and healthy.

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