Timing & REM Sleep Cycles

Timing & REM Sleep Cycles

Lindsay Mustard
Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor

31 May 2019

Timing & REM Sleep Cycles

“Let's talk about sleep baby. Let's talk about you and me...” It sounded better in my head than it does on paper, but regardless of its sexiness and ability to rhyme, sleep is one of the most important pieces of our health and well being.

When we’re drifting off into a deep slumber, our body has the opportunity to process all of the information we’ve taken in and learned that day and commit it to memory. Toss in the extra bonus of a boosted metabolism, weight management, reduced risk for cardiovascular diseases and illnesses and an improved mood and you have the recipe for one happy, positive and brilliant being!

As a student, I see sleep deprivation far too frequently. Peers are running on 3-4 hours of sleep, falling asleep in class and trying to get through the long days with coffee in one hand and sugar in the other. If you want a recipe for burnout, this is it - get poor quality sleep (and not enough of it!), drink and eat foods that wreak havoc on your adrenals, consume sugar (of any kind) and skip your workouts. Adrenal fatigue and exhaustion will follow shortly.

We’re taking a preventative approach and stepping back to see the effects of having less than adequate sleep and taking actions to change our sleeping game! Sleep, no its not as sexy as drinking a green smoothie, but it could be your secret ingredient to shaking the last 10 pounds you’ve been trying to let go of for years.

Let’s take a peak at what goes on behind the scenes when we’re drifting away. Our body goes through a 4 stage sleep cycle that typically lasts for 90-120 minutes. Each stage has its own purpose and needs to be seen through before you can enter the following stage in the REM sleep cycle.

The first stage is considered an NREM (non-rapid eye movement) stage, in which your body is in its lightest stage of sleep and you can be easily disturbed and wakened. Our brain at this time is producing alpha brain waves which are low frequency, high amplitude patterns of electrical waves that help one to relax while they are still awake. The Pure Lab Vitamin Slow Release L-Theanine helps to produce alpha brain waves! So if you need some help chilling out before bed, try taking a capsule 15 minutes before you hit the lights.

The second stage of sleep follows the first, however your body temperature drops, your heart rate begins to slow down and your brain begins producing theta brain waves. Theta brain waves help to lower stress and anxiety levels, while also helping to facilitate growth and healing. These waves are typically only produced during sleep and deep mediation and they are our gateway to learning, memory and intuition. During this cycle, there are short bursts of brain activity and the majority of our sleep time is spent in this stage.

The third stage of the sleep cycle is where we finally drift off into a deep slumber. Our body begins to produce delta brain waves, which are high amplitude brain waves with a low frequency. Our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and body temperature continue to drop and we spend an average of 15-20 percent of our time in this sleep stage. It is during this time that the body begins to dream and one can experience night terrors, sleep-walking and even sleep-talking. If you’ve been woken up before completing a full sleep cycle, you’ll notice that you feel groggy and tired for about 30 minutes before you feel like you are mentally alert. This is a common challenge that most adults face as they flirt between stage 2 and stage 3 of the sleep cycle without entering the final stage (REM) and need about 30 minutes to regain normal mental performance and sharpness.

The last and most important stage in the sleep cycle is REM sleep, also known as rapid eye movement sleep. The body experiences rapid eye movement partnered with dreaming and an increased blood pressure and heart rate. It is during this time that dreams can feel real, however we are unable to act on them as our muscles are temporarily paralyzed, preventing up from trying to jump into action and partake is our vivid dreams. Our brain waves continue to become more active than in the previous 2 stages and we can easily be woken in this final stage of sleep.

Once the cycle is complete, your body continues to rinse and repeat until your alarm goes off and you leap out of bed ready to take on the day! That was a joke. For most people it goes a little something like, hit the alarm, slowly slide off the bed and pray that your feet catch you and help you stand up.

Supplementing Your Sleep:
Excited to take action and get some deep zzz’s under your belt? Thought so! I’ve been testing out a new sleeping protocol recently where I set my alarm for 3-5 sleep cycles and time my alarm to go off when my body has finished the final REM cycle.

The first sleep stage takes approximately 90 minutes, while stages 2,3 and REM take 120 minutes. Plan to get through 4-5 sleep cycles per night by making a sleeping plan before you got to bed!

For example, if you usually go to bed at 10:00pm, try setting your alarm clock for 5:30 am instead of 6:00am. This was your body has completed an estimated 4 cycles of sleep and your body doesn’t slip into a new cycle causing you to feel groggy and slow and take upwards of 30 minutes to feel mentally sharp and capable of taking on the day!

If you find that you are struggling to fall and stay asleep at night, try supplementing with the PLV Magnesium and Melatonin for a fast and effective natural solution for helping you drift into your deep slumber!

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