Multiple night wakings- can you train yourself to sleep longer?

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For those who wake multiple times each night, sleep can be very frustrating.

The truth is we all wake up every 90-120 minutes after progressing through the five stages of sleep. Many find the transition from stage 5 (REM sleep) back to stage 1 (Theta sleep) extremely easy. Their night waking would be observed as rousing ever so slightly, rolling over and taking one deep breath before heading straight back to sleep. Many would not remember this at all the next morning and so report that they 'slept solidly from 10pm to 6am'.

However, for those who wake many times, the time between completing stage 5 and re-entering stage 1 can be lengthy... usually more than 30 minutes. Their night waking would be observed as waking up, tossing and turning in bed, going to the toilet, drinking some water and then slowly slipping back to sleep. Of course, many remember this very clearly the next morning and so report that they 'woke every two hours or so'.

Those who cannot 'link' sleep cycles quickly, will have a far shorter sleep duration even though they are going to sleep and waking up at the same time as those who have easier transitions. In an 8 hour period (for example, from 10pm until 6am), these folk may only sleep a total of 4-6 hours.

So, can you train yourself to link sleep cycles faster?

The answer is no.

Sleep cycles are not governed by conscious thoughts but are linked through a complicated series of chemical processes where various levels of hormones and neurotransmitters dip and surge in your brain and body.

As a child, these levels change with age, that is an older child will link sleep cycles more easily than a younger child. As an adult, these levels may be out of balance due to age and lifestyle. There may be too many stress hormones in your blood stream, too little sleep hormones such as dopamine and serotonin being secreted from your brain and/or mineral deficiencies such as calcium and magnesium that are causing muscle twitches or cramping that disrupts your sleep. Your sleep may also be disrupted by your own hormonal changes (think pregnancy and menopause) or by your lifestyle choices (think drinking too much caffeine or alcohol before bed).

The key to linking sleep cycles is to work out what needs to be adjusted or supplemented. It may be a dietary change. It may be that you require more physical exercise during your day. It may be that you need to start practicing certain relaxation techniques or taking an anti-depressant.

Sleeping well is a sign that your life is in balance.

Follow the Sealy blog to find your best night sleep.

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