Insomnia: Understanding Stages of Sleep Can Help You With Problems Sleeping

Insomnia: Understanding Stages of Sleep Can Help You With Problems Sleeping

If you have insomnia you may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or poor quality of sleep.You are not alone; over 6 million Americans have problems

If you have trouble sleeping you have developed a number of anxious and negative thoughts that are making your problem worse.  Some of these negative thoughts are based on misinformation about sleep.

There are 5 different stages of sleep:

  • The first stage is when you begin to get drowsy but you are aware of things going on around you.  Most people spend 5% of every night is this stage.
  • Stage 2 is light sleep, your body is calmer and you are more detached from the outside world, but you can be easily awakened.  50% of the night is spent in stage 2 sleep.
  • Stages 3 and 4 are deep sleep where brain wave patterns, respiration and blood rate all slow down.  This is the most restorative stage of sleep.  You spend about 20% of each night in this stage.
  • The last stage, or stage 5 sleep is REM or rapid eye movement sleep, this is dream sleep.  Here your brain waves are more similar to when you are awake and heart and breathing are activated.  You are more likely to awake from this stage of sleep and it accounts for about 25% of your total sleep.

People cycle through these 5 stages around 6 times each night.  However, most of your stage 3-4 sleep is done in the first half of the night, regardless of when you fall asleep, and REM sleep is mostly in the second half of the night.

If you have insomnia, it is very likely you are underestimating how much sleep you are getting.  The reason for this is that you may be in stage 1 or 2 sleep, but believe that you are awake.  If we hooked you up to a brain wave sleep recording device, it would tell the real story!  Also, most of your REM sleep is the second half of the night.  That means you are more likely to be sleeping fitfully in the wee hours of the morning.  You may conclude that you slept this way all night, because it is what you remember.  You do not remember stage 3-4, where you were getting your deepest sleep.

Also, the less sleep you are getting at night, the more your body will make up stage 3-4.  So if you only got 5 hours of sleep, your body will prioritize stage 3-4, and will skimp on the other stages that are less important to give you the rest you need.

Quick Tip:  Start Writing Down Your Positive Sleep Thoughts

Now that you know more about your sleep cycle you can begin writing down some positive sleep thoughts.  Positive Sleep Thoughts are more realistic thoughts about sleep that can actually calm you down which supports falling asleep.

Here are some examples of Positive Sleep Thoughts:

  • I may be getting more sleep then I think.
  • My body is making up the most important stages of sleep, even if I only sleep a few hours tonight.
  • I feel like I was tossing and turning all night, but I am remembering this because my lightest stage of sleep is in the beginning and end of my nights sleep.  I got deep sleep but just don’t remember it.

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