THE BOTTOM LINE:
- Your sleep architecture is an important aspect of your sleep quality.
- There are various ways you can improve your sleep architecture.
- Improving your sleep quality will improve your overall health!
Are you interested in improving the quality of your sleep? You’ve come to the right place. In the same way that architecture describes the design and construction of buildings, sleep architecture describes how our sleep is structured throughout the night. Your sleep architecture is made of of various sleep stages. How much time you spend in each stage and how many stages you cycle through each night determines your architecture. Good sleep architecture means you spend adequate time in each stage and get enough sleep cycles each night.
So, what sort of things can I do to improve my sleep architecture?
There are many techniques that have been shown to improve the quality of your sleep. First, we’ll start with the easiest, which would be the techniques you can incorporate into your daily routine starting right now.
A GUIDE TO
IMPROVING YOUR SLEEP ARCHITECTURE
Exercise is one of the most beneficial activities for boosting your sleep. It improves both the quality and quantity of sleep by helping you fall asleep faster at night and improving your sleep architecture through the night.
Got rhythm? Exercising regularly helps to keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This helps you keep a healthier sleep schedule and more stable sleep throughout the night.
Go deeper: Exercise can make your sleep more productive, by increasing the time spent in deep restorative sleep cycles. That’s when your body pumps you with healing, longevity-boosting, youth-generating growth hormone.
Breathe easy: Exercise can also improve sleep-disordered breathing and decrease the severity of obstructive sleep apnea by 25%. Given the disruptive nature of sleep-disordered breathing, this improvement can make a huge difference in sleep quality AND quality of life.
What kind of exercise helps you sleep better?
Any type of exercise that gets your heart pumping and depletes your energy can provide these improvements. You should primarily choose an exercise that you enjoy, so you’ll be motivated to want to do it every day! Learn about all of the exercise techniques that improve your sleep!
How much do I need?
A 25-minute cardio session is enough to make you sleep better that night. In order to consistently improve sleep architecture, it’s best to aim for at least 150 minutes a week with at least 90 minutes at moderate intensity (80% of your maximum heart rate).
Flexing into bedtime
Weight training has also been shown to help improve sleep quality, so don’t shy away from pumping some iron. An ideal fitness regimen to boost sleep architecture would have both cardio and weight training.
What are some alternatives?
If you’re not as interested in getting your heart pumping, that’s ok! We have some alternative exercise options if you prefer to have a more relaxing exercise session. These methods can both improve the quality of your sleep.
Yoga: Yoga is a relaxing way to incorporate exercise into your routine, and can improve your sleep quality by helping you to fall asleep faster.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR): This simple exercise works by tensing each of your muscle groups, one at a time, and then releasing the tension and easing the muscles into a moment of relaxation. Research has found that this technique can teach your body to fall asleep quicker by increasing your levels of mental quiet and joy and can even reduce chronic pain which could lead to sleep disturbances.
Brain exercises can be just as helpful for sleep as physical exercise, so if you just want to clear your mind before bed, you might be more interested in trying meditation.
Meditation might actually be the best way to improve overall sleep. As a bonus, it’s easy to do, accessible, and free!
Quiet a busy mind: Meditating can also reduce obsessive thinking that might keep you up as you’re trying to fall asleep. Over time, a regular meditation practice gives you the skills to accept your thoughts as they come and not engage with them. This is a powerful stress-relieving tool. Especially when you’re trying to fall asleep.
Boosts sleep architecture: Meditation has an incredible effect on sleep architecture. Meditating regularly has been found to improve overall sleep quality by enhancing your deep restorative slow-wave sleep and REM sleep (important for memory and emotional processing) and increasing your number of sleep cycles. You can gain these benefits in as little as 10 minutes a day.
New to meditating?
If you’ve never meditated before, the good news is that you don’t need any special skills to get started. Just throw on a guided meditation track (you can find some really nice free ones online or apps like Insight Timer)! Or simply set a timer for 5-10 minutes and sit comfortably with your eyes closed while focusing on your breathing. As you sit, your thoughts will come and go. Simply acknowledge them and focus back on your breath. In and out. No matter what is going on around you or inside your mind, your breath always brings you back to the present moment.
Here are more focused meditation techniques that can improve sleep:
- Body Scan: This mindfulness technique is very simple and can be done while you’re laying in bed! All you have to do is let your mind focus on each part of your body in a slow progressive meditation. This technique helps you reconnect with your body, and can help reduce anxiety and improve your sleep quality.
- Yoga Nidra: This cool meditation technique is considered to be a “conscious sleep” that can strengthen your mind-body connection and has been found to heal and restore sleep-deprived bodies and manage sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
This type of deep meditation can be done live or even with recorded audio that will instruct you to slowly descend into your sleep stages while still being consciously aware of your thoughts. This technique helps you build healthier thought patterns and can reduce those racing thoughts you might experience as you try to fall asleep.
Exercising and meditation are great for your sleep, but you can do even more to ensure you are improving your sleep architecture right in your home!
Rested Health wants to make sure you also have some quick solutions in your arsenal for improving your sleep architecture. Here are a few other habits, tools, and techniques you can use to make sure the Zzzzs you catch are high quality.
You may be asking, how exactly can noise be pink? It just can! Pink noise is officially defined as a type of noise that contains all the sound frequencies that humans can hear. However, it has less intense high frequencies than other types of noise. Research has shown that pink noise during sleep can help optimize brain wave activity, leading to an improvement in sleep stability. We like stable sleep architecture.
How do you get pink noise?
You can find it in nature! Some examples of pink noise in nature include the calming sound of waves crashing on the shoreline or leaves rustling in the trees. If you aren’t on a houseboat or in a rainforest, you can get pink noise through many different sound machines. It’s even available on many apps! Try playing some pink noise tonight and see how much better you sleep.
Spending some time in a sauna can provide a plethora of health benefits (it may even decrease your risk of dementia) and improve your overall quality of sleep. Some of the sleep benefits to sauna use are believed to be a product of the increased temperature at the surface of your skin (which cools your core temperature for bed), as well as the increased heart rate during sauna use. In general, regular sauna sessions improve continuity of sleep and can help you fall asleep faster. Try 10-15 minute sessions three times a week to start.
STAY ON SCHEDULE
One of the key ways to improve your sleep architecture is to ensure your circadian rhythm is functioning well. This helps regulate your hormones and ensures that signals for alertness and sleep are in line with your sleep-wake schedule. The most effective circadian boosting techniques are to keep a consistent wake and bedtime and to get around 20 minutes of sun exposure each day (ideally in the morning).
Certain supplements can enhance your sleep architecture, especially if you are deficient in them. We have a list of the more basic supplements you can try here, but if you’re looking to level up your supplement experience, check out our definitive guide to snooze-inducing all-natural supplements.
Making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D can help to improve both your quality and quantity of sleep and reduce the chances of sleep disorders caused by vitamin D deficiencies. You’ll want to start out at 600-800 IU daily, which you can easily get by eating foods like oily fish and egg yolks or taking pill-form supplements. You can even try spending some time outside in the sunshine, which can naturally boost your vitamin D levels.
Research has found that low iron levels can cause sleep disruptions such as restless leg syndrome and anxiety, and about 25% of the population is affected by this (and nearly 50% of pregnant women). Iron supplements can be taken in pill-form or you can find it in iron-rich foods such as shellfish, spinach, quinoa, liver, and red meat.
Magnesium can improve your levels of deep, restorative sleep by binding to your sleepy neurotransmitter, GABA. Deficiencies in magnesium can lead to insomnia, and research has found the symptoms of insomnia can improve with magnesium supplements. Glycinate has also been shown to improve sleep quality and architecture, so why not take them together! Try taking a daily dose of 500-800 mg.
In addition to improving your sleep quality, Omega-3 has many other health benefits such as reducing inflammation which might also cause sleep disruptions. Low levels of Omega-3 have even been linked to sleep apnea severity, so it is very important to get a regular fix. You can easily supplement by pill-form (try a high-quality supplement with at least 500 mg of EPA and DHA) or by regularly eating oily fish.
This is actually one of the most researched natural sleep aid on the market, found to be effective in treating insomnia with its sedative and sleep-enhacing properties! Try taking 300-600 mg 1-2 hours before bedtime.
Try combining it with another natural herb, hops flower! Research has found that this combo can improve sleep quality and reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep! Try adding 40-60 mg of hops to your dose of valerian root!