The Importance of Sleep

Let’s talk about the importance of sleep. Yes, I’m sure you already know that you are supposed to get close to 8 hours of sleep per night and it always seems impossible to fit it in. But maybe if you see WHY it’s important, you’ll make time for those extra minutes.
Sleep is an important part of any human’s needs, but it is particularly important for athletes or anyone that is training. Proper sleep patterns can help reduce inflammation, increase recovery, aid in losing weight, and can even help performance.
There are different stages/cycles to sleeping. There’s Stage 1,2,3,4 and REM. As you can see in the image above, the stages of sleep actually cycle throughout the night depending on the duration of asleep.
When you initially go to sleep, you soon dip into stage 1. Over the next hour, the body will go into deeper sleep until it reaches stage 4. As stage 4 ends, you will transition out of the deepest part of sleep and reverse back into the lighter stages until you hit REM. REM occurs about 2 hours after initially falling asleep. Some people think that REM sleep is the deepest period of sleep, but as you can see in the diagram, stage 4 is actually the deepest period of sleep and REM is the closest to being awake the body will be in the sleep cycle. While REM is where most of your dreaming takes place, it is actually the period of sleep where you are closest to being awake.
If you are not getting 8 hours of sleep per night, you are not completing the cycles of sleep and thus not optimizing your recovery. It is impossible to overcome sleep deprivation through any other recovery method.
If you just cannot get 8 full hours of sleep per night, there are some things you should know before setting your alarm for the last possible minute. In some instances more sleep is NOT actually better. The deeper the period of sleep you are in when your alarm goes off, the more groggy, disoriented and less productive you will be that day. You do not want to wake up in Stage 4. Stage 1 and REM are the most ideal to wake up in. So if you only have 5 hours to sleep, it’s actually better to set your alarm for 4hrs 15minutes which is at the end of a REM cycle, rather than 45min later which is a deeper stage of sleep.
So in summary, when you wake up out of deep periods of sleep continuously, you are subconsciously telling your body that you no longer need deep periods of sleep. Sleep disorders are likely to occur because of this. If you are regularly able to wake up during the lighter periods of sleep, productivity is higher and you will find yourself much more alert and feeling well-rested throughout the day.