Sleep 101: All You Need To Know To Improve Your Sleep

Jan 20, 2023 | Blog, Sleep Tips

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our lives. It plays a massive role in our wellbeing and overall ability to function. Yet, many of us have an extremely complicated relationship with it. When not worried about getting enough, we are busy agonizing over the quality and consistency of our sleep. Welcome to Somnology’s Sleep 101!

Below we look at some of the most important aspects of sleep. After all, knowledge is power. Keep reading to learn how you can take a balanced, informed approach to your sleep hygiene. 

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

It is recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep at night.1 Children and teenagers need even more as they are still growing and developing. It is important to recognize, however, that everyone is unique and should not fixate on the amount of sleep alone but also on the quality and how well rested they feel.  

Sleep Phases

During the night you experience two major types of sleep: non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep and rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. When you first fall asleep, you start in non-REM sleep (although babies typically start their sleep in REM) and then fall into deeper stages of NREM sleep prior to transitioning to REM sleep. Each cycle lasts around 90 minutes and repeats three to five times throughout the night.2 

Stage 1 (NREM)  

This stage is the shortest, lasting between one to five minutes. During this stage, brain and body activities begin to slow, interspersed with brief episodes of movement. At this point, you can still be woken. However, if left undisturbed, you can easily slip into stage two NREM sleep.2 

Stage 2 (NREM) 

In this stage, the body’s temperature drops, muscles relax, and breathing and heart rate slow. Eye movement ceases and brain activity also slows. However, short bursts of activity occur that help prevent premature awakening by external stimuli. This stage lasts anywhere from 10-25 minutes during the first cycle and gets longer throughout the night, eventually accounting for half of a person’s total sleep time.2   

Stage 3 (NREM) 

Stage 3 NREM sleep is also referred to “deep “ or “delta” sleep and during this stage it is difficult to be woken. Along with a decrease in breathing rate, muscle tone and pulse also decline. According to experts, this stage is the most critical when it comes to getting restful sleep. It strengthens the immune system, paves the way for bodily recovery, and aids creativity and memory. The first half of the night is spent primarily in this stage, but it gets shorter as the night goes on.2,3,4  

Stage 4 (REM) 

When in REM sleep, brain activity resembles levels seen while awake. The body experiences temporary paralysis of the muscles aside from the eyes and respiratory muscles. Dreams can happen at any time but are most common in this stage. The average person spends around two hours per night dreaming.5 In total, REM stages make up around 20-25% of sleep in adults.6 

Sleep & Gender

Despite experiencing better sleep quality and shorter sleep-onset latency than men, women still have more complaints about sleep efficiency.7 This is due to normal hormonal changes experienced during different phases of a woman’s life. During menstruation, for example, women report trouble sleeping due to headaches, bloating, and cramps. This in turn leads to increased daytime sleepiness, tiredness, and fatigue. Premenstrual syndrome makes women two times as likely to report symptoms of insomnia before and during their period.8 Post-menopausal women start to experience snoring and obstructive sleep apnea with a similar prevalence to men. 

Certain sleep disorders are more common in one gender than another. Studies done on insomnia and restless legs syndrome suggest a female predominance while rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder is more common in men. These differences become apparent as early as puberty.9 

Sleep Disorders

Although you may have trouble getting enough sleep every now and then, it does not necessarily mean you have a sleep disorder.

A few signs of sleep disorders include: 

  • Regularly having difficulty sleeping
  • Often feeling tired during the day despite getting enough sleep the night before
  • Having an impaired ability to perform daytime activities

Around 70 million people in the United States currently suffer from sleep disorders.10

Some of the most common sleep disorders include: 

1. Insomnia

If you have this disorder, you have trouble staying asleep, falling asleep, or both. Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing). Acute insomnia is most common and can be brought on by stress or traumatic events.11 Women have a 40% higher lifetime risk of insomnia than men and people with severe insomnia are seven times more likely to have work-related accidents.12,13 

2. Sleep Apnea 

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which your breathing will stop and restart many times throughout the night. This can prevent you from getting enough oxygen. There are two types of sleep apnea: Obstructive and Central. 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your upper airway becomes blocked during sleep. This is the most common type of sleep apnea and is caused by many factors perhaps working in combination–obesity, enlarged tonsils, advancing age, male sex, genetic factors, facial structure, or changes in hormone levels, etc.

Approximately 15-30% of men and 10-30% of women meet the definition of obstructive sleep apnea.14,15 Central sleep apnea is much less common, may be associated with other underlying medical problems or medications, and occurs when your brain fails to send the signals needed to breathe.16 

3. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) 

This disorder is characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs as well as an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms typically worsen in the late afternoon or evening and are most severe at night. Moving the legs or getting up to walk usually relieves symptoms, but as soon as movement stops, the sensation may return.17 RLS affects around 5-10% of adults and 2-4% of children.18 

How sleep disorders are diagnosed

To be diagnosed, your provider will obtain a detailed medical and sleep history. You may also need to undergo a sleep study. This may be done in a lab or at home, depending on your individual circumstances.

Sleep studies typically monitor and track the following data during a night of sleep:19 

  • Brain waves
  • Eye movements
  • Breathing rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate and electrical activity of the heart

Sleep & Temperature

Experts agree that the best temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (16 – 20°C).20 If the temperature in the bedroom is much higher or lower than this, it could disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. The body’s internal temperature is meant to drop, if this does not occur, the night’s sleep can be interrupted. 

Caffeine, Exercise, Devices, and Sleep 


Consuming caffeine can interfere with circadian rhythms, delaying the onset of sleep or shortening sleep duration. Caffeine has a half-life of four to six hours. As a result, caffeine ingested as early as six hours prior to bedtime can reduce sleep duration by an hour.21  


In order to sleep well at night, it is vital to get plenty of exercise. Even just 30 minutes of activity has been proven to help stabilize mood and encourage the body to fall asleep faster at night. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime, however. To avoid disruption, stop exercising at least one to two hours before you plan to go to sleep.  

Electronic Devices

Research has found that using electronic devices prior to bedtime makes it more difficult to fall asleep. The blue light emitted from electronic devices wreaks havoc on the body’s internal clock and ability to produce melatonin.22 To ensure you are able to get plenty of rest, it is best to cease using electronic devices at least an hour before bed.   

Sleep Schedules and Routines

One of the most powerful things we can do to optimize sleep is to cultivate a consistent routine. By going to bed and waking up at the same time on both weekdays and weekends (or at least not straying too far from our usual times), we can help set our circadian rhythms. 

Aside from sticking to a consistent bedtime, utilizing a wind-down routine can also be beneficial. Taking a bath, doing yoga, meditating, or listening to calming music are all good places to start. 

The intimate relationship between sleep and wellbeing is a difficult landscape to navigate so it is important to have a diverse set of tools at your disposal. Somnology offers a comprehensive perspective to sleep monitoring and care with the SLaaS® (Sleep Lab as a Service) platform, SomnoRing®, and mobile app. We have streamlined a typical sleep diagnosis experience by delivering the technology and medical insight of a sleep lab directly to users. To learn more about SLaaS® and the effects of sleep, read our blog or subscribe to our newsletter