Sleep, much like eating, drinking and breathing, is something that everyone does and is essential to our physical and mental health. Getting a good night’s sleep allows our bodies and minds to rest, repair and re-energise. Not sleeping well can cause a range of problems, including poor concentration, low mood, irritability, and a weakened immune system. On-going sleep problems can contribute to and also be a symptom of anxiety and depression. An NHS survey reports that nearly a third of the population are suffering from insomnia which is affecting their health. Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of mental health and relationship issues. (Source: NHS)

Click to find out more about the stages of sleep

Sleep allows our bodies and minds to rest, repair and restore. Sleep is not like a light bulb which is either on or off, but has different stages, varying from light to deep sleep. At least five different types or stages of sleep have been identified. Broadly, sleep is divided into what is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep. REM sleep occurs several times during the night and is where most dreaming is thought to take place. Non-REM sleep is divided into four stages, each stage being a bit deeper, almost like a staircase of sleep. 

Stage 1: Very light sleep, muscle activity slows down and the body begins to relax. People can be easily awakened at this stage.

Stage 2: Light sleep, breathing pattern and heart rate slows down. There is a slight decrease in body temperature.

Stage 3: Deep sleep begins, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature continues to fall. It becomes difficult to awaken someone at this stage.

Stage 4: Very deep sleep, rhythmic breathing & limited muscle activity.

Stage 5: REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). Muscles relax, heart rate increases, breathing is rapid and shallow. We may experience dreams during REM sleep.

Stages 1-4 are non-REM

It is estimated that we go through the 5 stages of sleep 4–5 times a night and that each sleep cycle lasts for roughly 90 minutes. People who suffer from sleep problems spend less of their sleep cycle in Stage 4 and the REM stage of sleep, meaning that they are not getting the deepest levels of sleep needed to rest, repair and restore our body.

Sleep True or False

Consider the following activities, do you think they are true or false in helping you have a healthy sleep?

If you are struggling to establish a sleep routine sometimes digital apps can help. There are lots of options available both free to use and paid. The NHS recommends Pzizz but a quick search online or in your app store is a good place to start.

Share your tips in the comments box below for heathy sleep