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Sleeping can feel like lying down on clouds. If you take pride in prioritizing your sleep hygiene by using an organic mattress topper, organic futon, and those extra comfy blankets, then sleeping will be even more heavenly.
We sometimes count it as a hobby. When we’re sad or want to relax: we go to sleep. Sleep is one of our necessities to live. Our bodies can’t function properly without it and if we try to it will cause various health problems.
Freely giving in when you feel sleepy is of the best things, aside from waking up refreshed or even at a state of forgetting what day or time it is, sleeping brings the body many benefits. But, why does sleeping feel so good? Let’s jot down what’s so refreshing about it!
The Sleep Cycle
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Our bodies experience sleep cycles as we fall asleep. You typically experience 4 to 6 stages, each with a certain length; these consist of 3 Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep stages and 1 stage of rapid eye movement (REM).
Sleep cycles also change and differ per individual. Aside from the number of hours slept, recent sleep patterns, age, and alcohol intake are other factors that affect the sleep cycle. The Sleep Foundation also notes its importance: you can analyze a person’s sleep cycles and stages using the sleep architecture, presented through a hypnogram. These findings show your brain’s activities and sleep patterns, and can explain the impacts of Insomnia and Sleep Apnea on your body.
Here’s a quick list of the NREM and REM details to quickly guide you through the sleeping process!
Source from the National Sleep Foundation
During the first moments of sleep, the most slow-wave NREM cycles happen. These stages start from being awake to falling into a deep sleep.
After experiencing slow eye movements when nodding off to sleep, you fall into the 1st stage (N1), which lasts from seconds to minutes. The first 1st N1 through your sleep cycle is often within 1-7 minutes. Sleep feels lighter as your body is just beginning to doze off.
This stage is the low-voltage, mixed-frequency pattern. You are slightly aware as your body hasn’t fully dozed off yet. Here, you may twitch from time to time while your brain and body activities slow down. Waking up someone in this stage is easy, but if they are uninterrupted, they quickly fall into Stage 2. Uninterrupted sleepers spend less time in this stage as they pass their sleep cycles.
The 2nd stage of NREM or N2 is the “deep sleep” stage which your body temperature drops, muscles relax, and breathing and heart rate slow down. The brain waves change with a new pattern while eye movements stop. Waking up gets more difficult in this stage as the brain becomes less responsive to your external surroundings.
N2 typically lasts from 10 to 25 minutes during the first cycle but will get longer as each sleep cycle passes. Because of this, half of your sleep consists of the N2 stage.
Additionally, signs of NREM stage 3 (N3) begin to show here. There is high-voltage, slow-wave activity from the brain found, showing the transition from N2 to N3.
N3 is known as the “deep sleep” stage. It is harder to wake up at this point of the cycle because the body is more relaxed as your pulse, muscle tone, and breathing rate have decreased.
Your brain takes a pattern known as “delta waves”, making this stage known as delta sleep or slow wave sleep. This vital stage is where your body recovers and regains energy for growth. Deep sleep in N3 plays a part in strengthening the immune system and other processes such as memories, insightful thinking, and creative thinking.
Deep sleep happens longer during the first half of the early cycles within 20 to 40 minutes. But these stages become shorter as you continue sleeping with more time spent on REM sleep.
After experiencing the NREM stages, your body shifts into higher brain activity close to wakefulness. It is also vital for cognitive functions like judgment, memory, mood, and learning. Hence, a lack of sleep can leave you aloof and slower to pick up on things.
The first REM lasts a few minutes, but the longer you fall asleep, the time duration increases and can even last for an hour in the second half of your night. On average, REM is 25% of sleep for adults. However, you can’t reach REM until you’ve slept around 90 minutes where NREM takes place.
These cycles change over time, however, they depend on different factors such as your sleep patterns, alcohol intake, age, and sleep disorders that are caused or can harm your sleep cycle from helping your body.
Overall, the first full NREM and REM cycle is around 70-100 minutes but can increase as the night goes by. They work together alternately in refreshing your brain and body to function and focus well the next day. A healthy flowing sleep cycle means a night of good sleep.
What is the importance of a mood boost?
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Sleep quality also takes about taking care of your mental health. Aside from the common idea that sleep influences your mood, like an insufficient amount of sleep can lead to mental disorders like insomnia and depression, your mood or mental breakdowns can be the culprit behind sleep problems.
Stress, depression, and anxiety can increase agitation, causing your body to stay awake and alert even when you want to rest. Your heart may often beat faster and have shorter and heavier breathing. Conditions such as depression and anxiety often have symptoms of feeling drained can lead to oversleeping or sleeplessness.
Proper mental care by boosting your mood can improve sleep quality. Professional help can tackle sleep problems by assisting you with your mental and emotional needs. You can relax or listen to sounds that encourage sleepiness to fall into a peaceful sleep!
What is Melatonin and why does it make us comfortable?
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Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by a tiny gland in your brain called the Pineal Gland. This part of the endocrine system creates melatonin as it works with the day-night cycle; your melatonin levels spike up when exposed to less light.
It may be called the “Sleep hormone”, but it does not make you literally sleepy. Research tells us that high melatonin levels widen your blood vessels, putting you in a calm state where you feel warm and comfortable for sleep.
Melatonin triggers 2 hours before bedtime, signaling you to head to sleep. Set aside any blue and green light devices to prevent your melatonin from being disrupted.
How fast do you fall asleep?
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The time it takes to fall asleep is called sleep latency, which usually takes 10 to 20 minutes. But there will be times when you’ll find it hard to sleep, which is normal, especially if you’re worried about something.
However, your sleep quality decreases the longer it takes to fall asleep. There may be underlying causes that prevent you from dozing off if it takes more than half an hour to sleep.
How much sleep is enough sleep?
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Your sleep needs change as you grow older. Aside from focusing on why does sleeping feel so good, you may also end up oversleeping, which can affect your body.
Here are the estimated hours of sleep needed based on age according to the National Sleep Foundation:
Source from The National Sleep Foundation (2022)
Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH) helps you not have to pee
It’s night time and we’re relaxing in bed or even fast asleep then we feel the urge to get up and pee. It’s a common occurrence. According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, one out of 3 adults aged 30 and above wake up at least twice every night to go to the bathroom.
The Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH), also known as arginine vasopressin, maintains blood pressure, blood volume, and tissue water content by directing the amount of water the kidney releases; controlling how much urine you also release. Lower levels of ADH can cause you to pee more often, even at night.
The key to a good night’s sleep
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On average, we sleep for a third of our lifetime but even so, many of us have trouble falling asleep. Having enough sleep has many benefits and can impact one’s physical health and mental health tremendously.
Good sleep can boost your immune system, reduce the risk of getting sick with heart disease and diabetes, prevent weight gain, increase your productivity, and improve your overall health, disposition, and energy all day.
- Build and Be Consistent with your Sleep Patterns and Rituals
- Go to bed and get up at regular times. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimizes your sleep. This conditions your brain to be drowsy at your designated sleep schedule.
- Do not oversleep. This can reset your body clock and signal your brain to change your sleep schedule. Try to wake up at your usual time. If you need to make up for lack of sleep, do a daytime nap.
- Avoid napping unless needed. While it’s a good way to make up for lost sleep, it can keep you up at night if timed poorly such as after-dinner drowsiness. Keep your nap until 15 to 20 minutes, optimally in the afternoons.
- Develop a sleep ritual. Bedtime rituals help you relax and over time will condition your brain to indicate sleep. This may include a warm bath, listening to soft music, dimming the lights, light journaling, and other simple activities. Do this consistently and in order.
- Exercise regularly.
- Exercise regularly. You can do aerobic exercises or long runs to help you sweat and pant. These exercises facilitate good blood flow and promote better and deeper sleep.
- Time your exercises. Exercising too late into the night can make it difficult to wind down in time for sleep. It is better to exercise during the day and hours away from your sleep time.
- Be mindful of your intake
- Avoid heavy meals at dinnertime. Your metabolism slows down at night and heavy meals can result in indigestion, heartburn, and trouble falling asleep, other than weight gain.
- Avoid going to bed hungry either. It’s difficult to sleep on an empty stomach but even if you were able to, you might end up waking in the middle of your sleep looking for more food.
- Limit your caffeine and nicotine. Coffee and cigarettes can keep you up to around 10 hours, so it’s best to limit or even avoid them at night. Too much caffeine and nicotine can also increase listlessness or anxiety at night.
- Limit Alcohol consumption. While alcohol and other liquors are often taken during the evening, these can disrupt your sleep cycle and diminish the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid too many liquids at night, including water. Too much and you’ll pee a lot, preventing you from having a continuous and deep sleep.
- Reduce sugary foods. These are energizers and consuming sugary foods can keep you awake instead of winding down.
- Don’t force sleep
- Don’t try to make yourself sleep. Forcing sleep will only agitate you and keep you more awake. If you can’t sleep for 20 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and consider doing something relaxing such as a brisk walk or a light read.
- Choose a time to sleep wherein you normally feel tired. Having too much energy still will make you toss and turn. If you need an alarm clock to wake up, consider opting to sleep early.
- Create a restful environment
- Keep it cool and dark. Between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit is the most optimal temperature for sleep. Using blinds, curtains, and reducing the light can make you less aware of your surroundings, leaving you less distracted.
- Fix your light exposure. Exposing yourself to sunlight during the day and the dark at night regulates your sleep-wake cycle and reinforces that association in your brain circuit.
- Reduce the noise. These can distract you from relaxing or sleeping. If noise such as cars and neighbors is unavoidable, you can use earplugs or mask it with white noise.
- Choose the bed and pillow that’s best for you. You want to be comfortable for that specific one-third of your life, so invest in a mattress you can be comfortable in. Your pillow must appropriately support your head, neck, ear, and shoulders.
- Avoid non-sleep activities in bed. Make your bed a place strictly for sleep only. This strengthens your idea of bed and sleep. Working or eating in bed will disrupt that connection and you may bring work stress to your sleep.
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If you’ve ever wondered about ways to improve your sleep quality and hormones, then here are some other related questions that can help you find long-term ways to feel good as you sleep.
Why does it feel so short when you sleep?
You wake up and hours have passed. Relax, you’re not time traveling or losing time, you’re just losing ‘consciousness’. The brain enters a phase called slow-wave sleep which is a non-dreaming state. To prepare you for deep sleep or REM sleep, when you start dreaming, your brain will block out outside stimuli. During this time, your brain produces delta waves which disconnect you from outside stimuli, including your perception of time.
How to get a good night’s sleep without medication?
Sleeping pills are often prescribed for serious cases of insomnia. If we don’t need to go there yet, there are a couple of things recommended by Very Well Health that you can do to get a good night’s sleep naturally. If the keys or tips mentioned earlier don’t work, you can also try:
- Meditation and Relaxing techniques
- Meditation can help you breathe slower and reduce stress. This calms your mind and relaxes your body. There are multiple ways and tips for meditation, and it’s best to find one that fits you.
- Yoga and Tai-chi
- Yoga is rooted in Indian philosophy while Tai-chi is in Chinese, but these are systems of movement and breathing that can increase your mindfulness and relaxation, resulting in better sleep.
- Aromatherapy involves inhaling essential oil scents. It is proven that smell affects sleep and exposure to particular scents such as lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang promotes better sleep.
- Melatonin is a naturally-occurring hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. Melatonin pills are available over the counter and can assist in sleeping, especially when your sleep cycle is disrupted.
How to sleep through the night without waking up?
Quality sleep is not just about getting 8 hours of sleep but also about having sleep continuity. Interrupted sleep can result in restlessness, discomfort, and memory loss, and has even been associated with neurodegenerative diseases.
To have continuous sleep, you should develop conducive sleep routines and habits, exercise regularly, be wary of your diet, and create a restful environment. For more tips, you can refer to an earlier section of this article.
How to get a good night’s sleep with anxiety?
Anxiety involves feelings of distress, unease, or worry. These are heightened in people with anxiety disorders. According to a 2013 Journal by Associated Professional Sleep Societies, anxiety directly affects the quality of your sleep. Significant anxiety has also been identified as a key factor in insomnia.
To have better sleep even with anxiety, consider using relaxation techniques. While the previous tips mentioned in this article are incredibly useful even to people with anxiety, you can also try Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a common treatment and technique aimed at framing negative thoughts to decrease anxiety. Writing down your worries can also help in managing your anxiety and can help reduce the stress brought on by it. This also helps free up space in our minds.
Wrap-Up: Knowing why does sleeping feel so good
A series of cycles happen as we sleep through the night. Our body signals us to feel calm as our body prepares for bedtime. Feeling good when sleeping comes with having a healthy relationship with sleeping by valuing our sleep quality.
The bottom line in answering why does sleeping feel so good is that lets our body recover and relax for a period of time. A chronic lack of sleep causes great discomfort and makes us lose our cognitive abilities and worsens our mental health. Sleeping lets our body heal and grow which not only helps us function but feel great!
I am a physician who cares about healthy living. I strive to be as healthy as I can be so that I can thrive in my own life. By sharing what I know I want to help others to live a healthy life.