If you’ve started going to bed earlier or increased the number of hours you sleep, and still haven’t felt an improvement when you wake, there may be a reason why. While we worry about how many hours of shut-eye we get, or what time we go to bed, there’s another stat we should be focusing on too – quality of sleep. Or, to put it another way, how many hours of Stage 4 sleep you get each night.
 

Why deep sleep helps you wake up refreshed

Each night your body passes through five different stages. Together, these make up the sleep cycle:
  • Stage 1: The lightest stage, when you are most easily woken
  • Stage 2: Light sleep, when your body temperature starts to fall and heart rate begins to slow
  • Stage 3: Moving from light to deep sleep, as brain activity starts to slow down
  • Stage 4: Deep sleep, during which the body repairs and regenerates cells
  • Stage 5: REM sleep, when brain activity increase again and dreams are frequent
Deep sleep – which happens during Stage 4 – is when your body is able to regenerate and repair itself. This is what leads you to wake up feeling reinvigorated and ready to tackle the day ahead.
 

How to improve sleep quality

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the key to improving sleep quality is getting more Stage 4 sleep. But that doesn’t necessarily mean spending more hours in bed.

Here are some tips for deep sleep:
  • Identify waking triggers: One of the biggest barriers to getting enough deep sleep is frequent waking during the night. But before you can tackle this one, you need to work out what’s causing you to wake. Use a diary to record bedtimes and waking times, as well as other elements of your bedtime routine.
  • Keep cool: One of the most common triggers for waking in the night is being too hot. That might simply mean feeling uncomfortably warm, or it could mean waking up drenched in sweat (known as Night Sweats). Either way, the solution is very similar – make sure that your sleeping environment is designed to keep you cool at night. That includes turning down central heating and surrounding yourself with natural fibres. In other words, choose cotton pyjamas and sheets, and select a wool duvet and pillows for maximum breathability and freshness.
  • Tackle allergies: If you frequently wake at night with dry, itchy eyes, a sneezy nose or a wheezy chest, then an allergy might be the problem. Synthetic bedding and mattresses provide the ideal environment for dust mites and dust mite allergens, causing allergy symptoms to be worse at night. Swapping your synthetic duvet for natural, hypoallergenic bedding is the most effective way to defeat the dust mites.
  • Watch what you eat: Spicy foods and caffeinated drinks are just two of the food types known to trigger night sweats in some adults. Avoid these foods in the hours before bed to reduce the likelihood of you waking during the night.


So there you have it – simple ways to get better quality sleep. Let us know how you get on in the comments.