You thought sleeping was a passive thing? Well, think again. Sleeping is pretty active! While people are asleep, they go through a series of cycles, which can be categorized into five stages. In each phase, the degree of brain activity and eye movement differ:
In stage 1, you gradually drop off. Your eyes start moving slowly and it becomes difficult to keep them open. You will fall asleep after max. three minutes.
You have just fallen asleep and will no longer wake up to the sound of the slightest noise around you. Still, you are not in a deep sleep yet. If someone woke you up in this phase, you will even doubt if you have slept already.
Phase 3 is the transition phase to real, deep sleep. Your eyes start moving faster, you breath becomes more regular and your heartbeat will slow down.
You are in a real, deep sleep now. You’re difficult to wake and if you are awakened, you will feel disoriented and will need some time to know where you are. This stage takes max. 18 minutes and is crucial: it helps restore physical energy.
The last stage is also called the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, as your eyes are moving very rapidly in this stage. Your brain is pretty active too, processing loads of information. This is the stage where dreaming occurs. After the REM phase, you will wake up very briefly, only to fall asleep again – when the entire sleeping cycle restarts.
Contrary to the general perception that people wake up due to a change in light, it is our body temperature that wakes us up. During sleep, our body temperature is slightly lower. If it increases slightly, you will wake up.
How much sleep do I need?
The need for sleep and the sleep structure differ according to age, personality and circumstances. Adults will need between five and eight hours of unbroken sleep.
Everyone has difficulties, now and then, to fall asleep or experiences periods of restless sleep. Millions of Europeans, though, suffer from real sleeping problems. They wake up feeling tired and lifeless. As a consequence, they cannot perform to the full in their jobs.
European research has shown that 40% of all Europeans suffer from sleeping problems. 10 to 51% refuse medical help to tackle their chronic sleeping problems. The causes of these sleeping disturbances can be divided into two categories:
Stress, psychological and physical complaints (e.g. backache) and wrong sleeping habits (e.g. too much coffee and/or alcohol just before turning in)
Circumstantial factors, such as too much light in the room, a too hot/too cold room or a bad sleeping infrastructure
Years of research have demonstrated that good bedding is a first, crucial step to ensuring a good night’s rest.