Sleep (Uncovered): How Much is Enough, Stages & More

Sleep is important to our overall health & quality of life. Without it we have difficulty functioning. Sleep deprivation leads to injuries & fatalities. Are you getting enough sleep? How much is enough?  Are cat naps effective? This is what I have uncovered about sleep.

After a good night sleep, people are mentally, physically & socially at their best. Sleep helps us handle stress (which keeps blood pressure down). When well rested, people are more productive, alert & have fewer injuries. Sleep also helps with weight loss. It is just as important as good nutrition & exercise.

Sleep deprivation is dangerous. Did you know that a tired driver is just as impaired as an impaired driver? I was lucky to have avoided 2 head-on collisions. Both times, vehicles narrowly missed my car & ended up in the ditch. The drivers admitted that they had fell asleep at the wheel. I am/we are lucky to be alive. 

There are 4 stages of sleep.

Stage 1, is the transition phase (between being awake & sleeping).  This when you are drifting off to sleep. Eyes don’t want to stay open & heads nod. Lasts 5 – 10 minutes.

Stage 2, the person is in a light sleep. Muscles may twitch as the body relaxes. Lasts 10 - 20 minutes.

 A cat nap can refresh & rejuvenate. Short 10 – 20 minutes improve short-term alertness. Limit your cat nap to stages 1 &/or 2. People tend to wake up groggy when they nap 30 minutes or more.

If planning a road trip, have a good night's sleep the day before. If driving & getting tired, have a quick cat nap. Find an approach/safe place to stop & rest (don’t just pull-over onto the shoulder of a road). Be safe. Arrive alive: http://www.go-getters.ca/blog/2010/8/13/asleep-at-the-wheel.html.

Stage 3, transition from a light sleep to a very deep sleep. Heart rate slows & muscles are very relaxed. Can last for up to an hour.

Stage 4 or the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Stage is last. Eyes twitch, heart rate increases, arm & leg muscles experience temporary paralysis. We dream in this stage. Approx 20-25% of our sleep is spent in the REM stage.

Stages 3 & 4 are most important.  During these stages, the body repairs & prepares itself both physically & mentally for another day. This is when you boost your energy & your immune system.

A person will cycle through these 4 stages many times during one night. The length of time that we are in each stage can vary every time.

With our busy lifestyles, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. As a result, people are sleeping less. With sleep deprivation people lack motivation/energy, gain weight, are emotional/moody, lack mental sharpness & get sick more often. Sleep shouldn’t be viewed as a luxury, it is a necessity.

So, how much sleep is really enough? The younger we are, the more sleep that we need. Experts recommend that adults need at least 7 – 8 hours of good quality sleep each night. 

Here are some tips for a good night's sleep: http://www.sleepnet.com/tips.html. If you are looking for more information about sleep, this site has everything you wanted to know but were too tired to ask.

Sleep is one activity that we can do with little effort. We need a good night’s sleep to fully restore & rejuvenate. Try to go to bed a little earlier tonight. Be the best that you can be! Sleep well & stay safe!