Use Sleep Trackers To Understand Your Sleep

Just because you go to bed on time and get eight hours of shut-eye each night doesn’t automatically mean you’re getting enough rest.

If you catch yourself zoning out all day and feeling too exhausted to function, the quality of your Z’s might need some tweaking.

Routinely getting a good night’s sleep is just as crucial to your health and well-being as food and water, but how do you know what’s going on when you knock out, since you’re…well, unconscious?
Sometimes, figuring out if you’re sleeping properly can be easier said than done, but fortunately, with the aid of sleep tracking and a few standard guidelines, you can put yourself in a position to wake up ready to go every morning.

With the invention of sleep tracking products it is easier than ever to monitor your sleep patterns and adjust your nighttime conditions to your own needs. But what actually are you supposed to be keeping an eye on?

In a nutshell, there are five main phases of sleep that we tend to pass through when we close our eyes for the night: stages 1-4, followed by REM sleep, in 90 to 110 minute cycles that repeat over and over until we wake up. During that time, roughly 50 percent is typically spent in the second stage, and another 20 percent is REM.

Once you doze off, you enter into stage 1, a light sleep when your eyes move very slowly and your muscles stop firing so fast. You’ll wake up the easiest at this point compared to the other stages.

From there, you’ll pass into stage 2, a slow sleep in which your eye movements totally stop and your brain waves decrease.

Then it’s on to stage 3, extremely slow sleep, when your brain move even more slowly.

From there, you hit deep sleep, also known as stage 4, in which muscle activity and movement are almost nonexistent, and those brain waves get even slower. Good luck waking somebody up when they are in stage 4 — it’s tough, and if you manage it, there’s a good chance they’ll be disoriented and groggy for a good long while.

REM is the final of these stages, and while you’re in it, you’ll have shallow, rapid and irregular breathing. Your eyes move rapidly (hence the name, Rapid Eye Movement), your limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed, your heart rate increases and blood pressure rises.

Since brain waves fire off cues of sleep and wakefulness, certain common behaviors — like substances and sleeping conditions — can derail your sleep in a big way, leaving you feeling like you pulled an all-nighter even after sleeping for hours.

If you want to start waking up ready to conquer the day, you should avoid highly caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda as well as anything with a high sugar content at night to prevent that caffeine high or sugar rush, which can keep you wired for hours.

Stimulants aren’t the only things you should steer clear of. It is well known that alcohol can lull you into a light sleep, but be wary: booze blocks deeper, restorative sleep stages like REM, so while you might knock out fast, you might not get much out of it.

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but did you know it can be disastrous even when you hit the sack? Nicotine can keep you stuck in a light sleep, reducing your REM. Plus, smokers tend to wake up every three to four hours due to nicotine withdrawal. Yikes!

Certain medications and decongestants stimulate certain parts of the brain that keep you awake, while other drugs can suppress REM sleep. And it’s not just things you consume that can get in the way of those Z’s. Even temperature can get in the way of your rest, considering that the deepest part of your sleep cycle significantly reduces our bodies’ abilities to regulate temperature, so if it’s really hot or really cold, your snoozing might take a hit.