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The Science of Sleep: Understanding the Basics for a Healthier You


Getting good sleep is crucial to our overall health and well-being. It is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle and is essential for mental fortitude. A good night's sleep not only promotes physical health but also helps improve our mood and prevent mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression. However, as we age, it can become increasingly difficult to get proper sleep, and we may not even realize it at first. To better understand the science of sleep, we need to know what our body needs, be aware of the symptoms of poor sleep, and explore ways to improve our sleep quality to become a happier and healthier version of ourselves.

creating a bedtime ritual can help improve sleep

What is a Sleep Cycle?

The sleep cycle is a complex process that repeats throughout the night. There are five stages, each with its purpose. Understanding how your body operates during sleep can help you better comprehend your sleep issues.

  • Awake: The initial stage of sleep is referred to as the Awake stage. It is possible to be in this stage regardless of whether your eyes are open or closed. During this stage, your body receives very little of the restorative benefits it requires. It is probable that you will feel just as tired after lying on your couch for an hour in this stage of sleep.
  • N1: The second stage of sleep is light sleep, during which you should spend about 5% of your time. This is the lightest stage of sleep and can be easily interrupted. However, passing through this stage is essential to reach deeper stages of sleep. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare your sleeping area to promote good sleep by blocking out light and creating a peaceful soundscape conducive to sleep.
  • N2: The third stage of sleep is deep and restful, and it plays an important role in memory consolidation. Research shows that spending about 45% of your time in this stage is ideal. During deep sleep, your body undergoes the healing process.
  • N3: The fourth stage of sleep occurs before entering the REM (rapid eye movement) stage and is the deepest non-REM state. This stage of sleep is more restorative than the other non-REM sleep stages.
  • REM: The fifth stage of sleep is characterized by dreaming and is crucial for mental health and well-being. Although it is not a restful sleep state, it provides unique benefits. It typically occurs about ninety minutes after falling asleep and reoccurs throughout the night, just before waking up.

Sleep is essential for overall physical and mental health, and each sleep stage offers distinct advantages. However, the waking state, N1, and REM sleep stages create specific challenges as disruptions are more likely to occur while in one of these stages.

What Can Impact Your Sleep?   

There are several factors that can lead to poor sleep. One of the most common causes is simply the aging process. Seniors tend to experience insomnia more than young adults, and it is believed that advanced circadian rhythms that come with old age are to blame. Here are a few other possible reasons why you're not getting a good night’s sleep.

  • Disruption: If your sleeping environment is noisy, bright, or uncomfortable, it can make it harder for you to fall asleep and achieve deep sleep stages.
  • Sickness: If you experience any physical discomfort such as skin irritation or poor blood circulation, it may affect the quality of your sleep. Eliminating caffeinated beverages from your diet can help address this issue.
  • Urination: If you drink water close to bedtime, you may need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, disrupting your sleep. To avoid this, stop drinking at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Sleep Apnea: One of the most disruptive factors of sleep is sleep apnea, which is a breathing disorder that causes breathing to stop and start repeatedly throughout the night. Snoring can be a warning sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or central sleep apnea (CSA).
  • Depression: Medical depression can cause REM latency, which reduces the time between sleep and the first REM process. This can disturb your sleep patterns.  

These are not the only issues that can arise, but they give you an idea of what factors can impact sleep. If you suspect that you're not getting good sleep, perhaps it is time to take a sleep test.

What is a Sleep Test?

A sleep test is a way to monitor your sleep patterns. It takes your breathing, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, brain waves, eye movements, and more into account. The test provides information about which stages of sleep you enter and for how long. It can also detect sleep apnea. 

At, we offer sleep test options that you can take from the comfort of your own home. You can order your sleep test directly from our website or let us assist you in connecting with a local doctor or dentist.

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