When you sleep you move through distinct phases that are divided into non–rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Non-Rapid Eyeball Movement Sleep
This phase of sleep has within it four individual stages:
The first and second stages are characterized by light sleep and a lowered breathing rate- much slower than when you are awake.
In the third and fourth stages your breathing slows even more and is called slow wave sleep or Delta level sleep. Delta sleep is deep and restorative.
The majority of your bodily repair and maintenance tasks are completed during this stage.
Rapid Eyeball Movement (REM ) Sleep
During the rapid eye ball movement phase you move into even deeper sleep than non-REM sleep.
The following occurs during REM sleep :
- Your eyes and your eyelids vibrate/flutter
- Your breathing becomes irregular.
- There can be brief periods when there is a cessation of breathing (apnea)
The four stages of non-REM sleep are usually moved through in around sixty t ninety minutes after going to sleep. Going through these stages are necessary prior to entering the deeper REM phase.
You will journey through 3 or 4 of these cycles is during the night.
As your sleep progresses, you will spend more time in REM sleep and less time in the third and fourth sleep stages.
Part of getting good nights sleep is preparation for sleep. Not only should you prepare your body for sleep, you need to relax and set up your mind to accept sleep. Rituals and routines can help, as can some special herbs and supplements. At the top of the list is the following:
Lavender – An essential oil used in aromatherapy and very effective in calming and relaxing your senses.
Melatonin – Usually in supplement form and needed where you have a sleep deficit that you want to correct. This is a natural chemical released by the body to assist in inducing sleep.
Valerian – Used for many hundreds (if not thousands) of years as a solution to anxiety and sleeplessness. Make sure you do not combine Valerian and OTC drugs. If you are on any medication, check with your doctor prior to taking Valerian.
Hops – In herbal for can be inserted in a sachet into your pillow case. You will then breath in the scent which helps to calm the nerves an allow for an easier transition into sleep.
Relaxation begins in the mind. Taking up meditation and practicing this discipline will produce results far beyond a good nights sleep. Many times insomnia can be reduced or cured if the cause is based in anxiety, stress or too much Beta level thinking.
Meditation can lower anxiety and allow you to control frenetic thoughts that can invade and dominate your mind, making sleep elusive.
A great way to prepare your mind and body for sleep is to visualizing a calm and serene time or place in your life. Or you can invent a wonderful scene and imagine yourself relaxed and drowsy, your body feeling free of tension whilst you explore a beautiful garden.
You can also visualize yourself entering and travelling downwards in a lift, being able to see the floor numbers gradually being illuminated. When you reach the bottom the doors slide open, before you is a beautiful room filled with all your favourite things, and in the middle is a big comfy bed!
This is a technique whereby you relax in stages – you can start at your feet and work your way up or from the head and progress down to your feet. The main thing is to move slowly, don’t rush this. Making a tape of your own voice guiding you through the stages is very effective. It should take no more than say 5 minutes to create.
A sample script would be:
“My feet are heavy and relaxed. They are sinking into the mattress as all the muscles and joints relax and let go of any tension”.
Then move on to your calves, then the thighs, groin and lower back etc.
A tip is to make sure you do not move on until you really feel a particular area of your body has relaxed. It is also a great way to understand where you carry tension.
Low key, soothing music played prior to sleep will assist you in relaxing. You may be able to set your music playing device to automatically switch off after say 20 minutes. This will avoid disturbing you as you drift off.
Baroque/classical music or your favourite tracks (no heavy metal!) are fine to bring your mind down into an Alpha state. From there it is a case of relaxing and allowing yourself to slip into Delta sleep.
Any sort of gentle stretching and breathing activities will calm the mind down. Once you master some of the poses and diaphragmatic control techniques you will have an ability to create a “relaxation response” within your body.
The body will follow the mind. If the thoughts and mind are tranquil your body reflects this state.