When it comes to good health and feeling your best — both physically and mentally — good sleep is an essential element. What you may not know is that good sleep involves both quantity and quality. With shallow sleep syndrome, the right quantity – seven or more hours of sleep – may be there, but the restorative quality is not. This typically is due to not achieving the deeper, more restorative sleep stages, something that, over time, can contribute to a broad range of physical, cognitive and mental health problems.
If nonrestorative sleep is a problem for you, it’s important to learn how to regain your sleep quality and enjoy more restful, refreshing sleep.
Shallow Sleep Syndrome Can Impact Health, Cognitive Function
Getting good sleep on a regular basis is intimately entwined with health. It, along with a healthy diet and a healthful level of physical activity, forms the very foundation of both short-term and long-term health and well-being. Shallow sleep deprives you of sufficient sleep time in the restorative stages of sleep, which are the final two stages of the sleep cycle: deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It can even make you more prone to developing other sleep disorders.
During the deep sleep phase, physical restoration processes take place, including cell regeneration, tissue growth, tissue repair and immune system strengthening. During this phase of sleep, toxins are flushed from the brain, including the toxic protein amyloid-Beta, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. REM sleep also supports cognitive restoration and health, including the literal structure of the brain via its impact on the brain’s white matter integrity. White matter is associated with learning and brain communication processes. REM sleep also has a role in such cognitive processes as memory consolidation.
Shallow sleep syndrome, or frequently feeling unrefreshed or tired upon awakening should serve as a wake-up call when it comes to your sleep and health. Other symptoms of nonrestorative sleep include feeling excessively tired during the day, feeling irritable or depressed, experiencing panic attacks, struggling to concentrate, having memory problems and poor immune system function. Failing to achieve the restorative stages of sleep on a routine basis can have a measurably negative impact on health and merits your immediate attention and prompt action.
What You Can Do to Promote Restorative Sleep
If you suffer from shallow sleep syndrome, you can train yourself to sleep better and to achieve the restorative sleep you need by establishing a healthy rhythm in your life. Set regular times for sleeping and waking. Factor in the amount of sleep you need — typically between seven and nine hours, depending on the individual — along with an additional 30 to 60 minutes for a wind down and relaxation routine prior to bedtime. Use this time to mentally prepare for sleep by letting go of the day’s worries and stresses, perhaps via meditation, a warm bath or a good book (physical, not electronic). Stick to this schedule on days off from school and work.
Also, set and stick to a schedule for your meals as well, as meal timing also impacts sleep timing and quality. Never skip breakfast. Consume the bulk of your calories earlier in the day rather than in your evening meal. Don’t eat heavy evening meals and schedule your evening meal three hours before bedtime. This meal should be focused more on quality proteins than on carbohydrates. Avoid ultra-processed foods to the highest degree possible, as these foods are associated with poor sleep quality. Choose healthy, whole foods instead.
Make sure your sleeping area is as comfortable as you can make it, including good pillows and bedding. The room should be cool, but not cold. Keep lights dim in the evening and sleep in the dark. Don’t have electronics in the bedroom. Avoid using electronic devices, including mobile phones and tablets, during the two hours before bedtime. Bright lights and electronic devices can interfere with melatonin production. When production of this sleep hormone is suppressed, sleep timing can be delayed.
Be sure to get enough physical activity each day. However, do it earlier in the day. Working out too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep. Increase your morning and daytime exposure to natural light. That helps to promote circadian rhythm health, which is important to sleep quality because the circadian rhythm helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Used Correctly, Melatonin Supplements Can Help
While melatonin is produced by the body, chronic sleep disturbances, poor sleep habits and an assortment of modern lifestyle factors can be disruptive to that production. Establishing better sleep and lifestyle habits takes time. When used correctly, melatonin supplements can be a huge help during that transition period of working toward better lifestyle and sleep goals.
Dosages typically range between 0.5 mg and 5 mg. However, you should take the lowest effective dosage, so start out low, gradually increasing until you reach the right dose for you, unless your health care provider recommends a specific dose. Take the supplement 30 minutes before bedtime. Some people may experience mild side effects, including headache, nausea, dizziness and daytime sleepiness.
Always Address Persistent Sleep Problems Promptly
If you routinely experience shallow sleep syndrome, or nonrestorative sleep, and using the techniques above fail to resolve your sleep issue, see your health care provider without undue delay. Sleep is essential to your health, now and over the long-term. Sleep problems should always be addressed promptly.