What is sleep?

What is sleep?

Every night we go to bed, close our eyes and sleep without a second thought. But have you ever wondered what sleep is, and why we need or do it? Sleep isn’t just going to bed, lying down, and waiting to drift off; it also plays an important role in your physical and mental health. 

Learn all about what sleep actually is, the stages of sleep, how many hours of each you need, and how to get a good restful night, with our easy-to-follow guide. 


The 4 stages of sleep

While sleep cycle length varies from person to person, there are four stages of sleep that generally everyone experiences: awake, light, deep, and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. 

  1. Awake: This doesn’t mean ‘wide awake’, rather it’s the stage before you go to sleep when you start to feel tired. Your eyes will start to close involuntarily as your body prepares to fall asleep. 
  2. Light sleep: This is also known as the ‘dozing off’ stage, when you transition from being awake to falling asleep. This is the shortest stage and can last as it only lasts from one to 10 minutes. However, it is also the easiest stage to wake up from if you’re disturbed by something. If this stage of your sleep cycle goes undisturbed, you’ll easily move on to the next stage.
  3. Deep sleep: In this stage, it’s harder to be woken up. In fact, being woken up suddenly from this stage can result in feeling groggy or even disoriented. During this stage, your body is refreshing itself in many ways, from strengthening your immune system to repairing tissues and building your muscles.
  4. REM sleep: This stage of your sleep is associated with memory consolidation and memory. During this stage, your brain activity will pick up, your heart rate and blood pressure will increase and your eyes will move rapidly from side to side (hence the term Rapid Eye Movement).

What stage of sleep do you dream?

Most of our dreaming tends to happen during REM sleep. Some dreaming can occur in other stages of sleep, but they tend to be more intense during the REM stage. Research suggests this is caused by the increased brain activity that happens during this stage.


How much sleep do you need?

While everyone has different sleep needs, the amount of sleep you and your loved ones require ultimately depends on age. How much sleep you need will decrease over time, however, if you’re looking for exact numbers, here are some to get you started.

How many hours of sleep do adults need?

Adults typically need between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. As sleep needs stabilise by the time we reach early adulthood, adult sleep hours remain the same from the ages of 18 to 64. After the age of 65, seven to eight hours are recommended. 


Sleep for teens and kids

As kids grow, develop a sleep routine, and get older, the amount of sleep they need will start decreasing. As a newborn, they’ll need around 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day. To begin, they’ll need at least 12 to 15 hours a day. Once they’ve blown out the candles on their very first birthday cake and head towards their more active toddler years, they’ll need 11 to 14 hours of sleep a day.

When it’s time for them to head off to preschool (3 to 5 years) your little snoozer will need 10 to 13 hours of sleep. This will help fuel them throughout the day as they start their educational journey and make some new friends.

During their primary school years, kids will generally need between 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Once they’re in high school and enter their teen years, they’ll need eight to 10 hours. 

Sleep for newborns

As their little bodies are growing and developing rapidly, and they don’t have a circadian rhythm just yet, newborns need at least 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day.  


How to get a good night's sleep

Now that you know the basics of sleep, it could be time to ready yourself and your bedroom to maximise your rest time.  

There are a few things you can do to get yourself ready for a good night’s sleep, such as:

  • Making exercise a part of your daily routine to reduce stress and burn excess energy.
  • Avoiding large meals, alcohol, nicotine and/or caffeine before bedtime.
  • Removing electronic devices from your bedroom to stave off the temptation of bedtime procrastination.
  • Sticking to a sleep schedule by creating a bedtime routine and avoiding activities that may disrupt your sleep such as putting down electronic devices after a certain time, having a relaxing cup of tea, etc.

However, a good night’s sleep isn’t just about getting yourself ready for bed, it’s making sure your bedroom is set to help nurture your body, mind and mood. Here, comfort is key. This could mean buying a new mattress that provides your body with the support and comfort you need to sleep. It could also mean looking at your furniture. Bed frames are a great way to help set the mood in your space. An upholstered bed frame is a great way to play with colours and add a layer of softness to your space, while a wooden bed frame can help create the right mood before sleep.

Want to learn more tips about getting a good night's sleep? Head over to our blog to find more articles with tips to fall asleep fast and things to do before bed to help you unwind.


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