Experts distinguish between two broad categories of sleep based, in part, on brain wave patterns measurable using the electroencephalogram (EEG). During a good night’s sleep, non-REM and REM sleep alternate cyclically.
Delta waves, the slowest rhythm of all brain waves, predominate during the deepest part of non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep. This type of sleep is good for tissue growth, cell repair and flushing away waste from the brain.
Meanwhile REM sleep, the kind of sleep most often associated with dreaming, is characterised by bursts of rapid eye movement. Scientists believe that REM sleep helps to form memories and benefits learning.
Try developing a “before sleep” routine that works for you. Include things like starting to get ready for sleep a certain time before you want to actually fall asleep, working out how long your bedtime routine will take.
Turning off electronics from a certain time and listening to relaxing music might also make it into your bedtime routine.
Lots of people benefit from taking a hot shower before going to bed. This has a number of relaxation benefits but it also trains your brain into realising that you are about to sleep.
If you do include this in your evening routine, make sure you get things in the right order. You don’t want to have a hot shower and then eat a heavy meal that will wake up your body and digestive system.
Exercise appears on this list again, and for good reason! Getting regular exercise through the day reduces stress levels, making it easier to fall asleep.
Once asleep, people who have exercised during the day tend to sleep for longer and get better quality sleep because their bodies are recharging from their additional energy expenditure.
It is not recommended to exercise for at least 90 minutes prior to the time you want to fall asleep because of the endorphins and other neurotransmitters that are released, which trigger arousal rather than relaxation.
Sleep and nutrition are extremely complex and involve multiple systems of the body that are interconnected. There is no scientific consensus on the best foods to eat for a good night’s sleep.
However, studies have shown that meals high in carbohydrate and refined sugar lead to less deep sleep and more awakenings during the night. Most people don’t realise this because high carbohydrate meals also make you feel drowsy.
Some people struggle to sleep unless it is pitch black. If this is you, invest in some blackout shades or an eye mask to block out all light sources.
If light doesn’t affect you at night time but it causes you to wake up earlier than you would like then it might also be worth you switching to dark mode.
Sleep is more important than most people realise. Buy sleepwear and bedding that feels soft and comfortable because this will help to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.
It is easy for your bedtime routine and habits to follow the patterns that you had during childhood. Many people don’t experiment with different sleepwear and/or bedding so use lessons from holidays and hotel stays to determine what works best for you.