How to Get the Perfect Night’s Sleep
Do dreams affect sleep?
Of course, we all know that a ‘good night’s sleep’ is not a matter of dropping off as soon as your head hits the pillow, then waking instantly eight hours later. Sleep is a complex process which takes place in stages.
It’s not just the number of hours you spend asleep that’s important – it’s the quality of the sleep. It’s important to experience all the stages of sleep if you expect to wake refreshed in the morning and stay alert all day.
During sleep the heart rate slows, body temperature falls, and complex changes take place in brain activity. So what are the stages of sleep?
The first is N-REM (Non Rapid Eye Movement). This has three sub-stages, each progressively deeper:
- N-REM 1 and 2 are light sleep stages from which we are easily awoken.
- N-REM3 is a deeper stage from which we would feel disoriented if awoken.
- The fourth stage of sleep is an interesting one, REM (Rapid Eye Movement). Guess how it got its name? Yes, during REM sleep our eyes move rapidly as we dream. It’s as if we’re watching the memories of the day replaying, as they’re written into long-term memory.
These four stages can play out in cycles of around 90 minutes duration, perhaps five or six times a night.
Dreaming can occur during both REM and NREM sleep, but dreams tend to be longer and more vivid if experienced during REM sleep. The balance between NREM and REM sleep varies throughout the night, with REM sleep tending to dominate in later sleep cycles.
DID YOU KNOW…?
Scientists think that short and intense bursts of light NREM sleep called ‘spindles’, which interrupt REM sleep during later cycles, help to transfer recently acquired memories to long-term storage.
it’s not entirely clear why some people tend to remember dreams more than others, but it is likely related to when in the sleep cycle they experience the dreams.
Deep NREM sleep is associated with the consolidation of newly-acquired memories, so arguably, when you’re studying for an exam, this type of sleep that be best for helping you to fix memories.
REM sleep seems to be more about cross-referencing newly acquired memories with older memories, and its suggested is where creative insight often springs from – so there is some truth in the old adage that you should sleep on a problem.