The Science of Sleep

Discover Healthy Sleep for Your Body and Mind

Americans lead some of the most busiest and productive lifestyles in the world, and adequate sleep is crucial to ensure the tasks of the day are accomplished efficiently and effectively. We have compiled a list of quick tips to help improve your sleep health.

How to fall asleep quicker

Nothing is more frustrating than laying in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, but being unable to do so. The CDC recommends adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, however, a recent Gallup Poll suggests that many Americans fall short of that goal. One of the biggest reasons for this lack of sleep is the inability to fall asleep in a timely manner. Follow these steps to help you accomplish this goal:

tips to fall sleep faster
morning sunlight

View sunlight first thing in the morning

When sunlight enters your eyes, it triggers your Circadian Rhythm and sets the timing of your body’s sleep cycle. Sunlight activates the release of hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine from your pineal gland, and signals your body that it’s time to become wakeful. Furthermore, it also initiates the release of the hormone Melatonin, which once built up in your system, causes you to feel sleepy. It’s crucial to start the release of Melatonin early in the morning so that by the time you want to fall asleep, there is enough of the hormone in your system to do so.

reduce stress

Reduce Stress

According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress is a major reason why people cannot fall asleep quickly. Many people lay awake in bed with their mind racing, thinking about issues that cause them stress and anxiety. Left untreated, this can develop into ‘sleep anxiety’, where someone becomes anxious about the act of falling asleep itself, only exacerbating the issue. If you are suffering from this issue, try engaging in relaxing activities, such as meditation or listening to soft music before bed, to help remedy the problem.

lower tempurature

Lower the Temperature

As you sleep, your body naturally cools down. If you are having a difficult time falling asleep, it might be because your body is too warm. Taking a hot shower before bed could help alleviate this issue, considering that your body begins to cool itself down after being exposed to the heat. Research has shown that showers as little as 10 minutes in length can significantly help improve sleep. Furthermore, setting your thermostat to around 65 degrees can have a significant impact on your sleep as well.

tips to sleep longer

How to stay asleep longer

Waking up periodically throughout the night could be an indicator that you are suffering from Insomnia. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 33-50% of Americans are affected by this condition. Try these quick tips to help you get the best, uninterrupted sleep possible!

morning sunlight

Avoid alcohol before bed

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows down brain activity when consumed. Studies have shown that alcohol can have a significant impact on sleep, as it interferes with the body’s ability to reach and maintain REM (Random Eye Movement) sleep. REM sleep is a very important component of our sleep cycle, because it is in this phase that memories are formed and emotional content is sorted.

avoid eating before bed

Avoid eating too close to bedtime

Research suggests that eating too close to bedtime can impair your sleep. When your body digests food, it can raise your body temperature, thus making it more difficult to stay asleep. Furthermore, it prompts the release of insulin, which alters your circadian rhythm and signals wakefulness in your brain. It is recommended that you eat no later than three hours before you plan on sleeping, and avoid foods that can undermine sleep, such as spicy and acidic foods.

lower tempurature

Use your bedroom for sleep only

Many people consider their bedroom the most comfortable and relaxing place in their home. This prompts people to engage in activities such as watching television, texting, or working on a laptop computer while laying in bed. Unfortunately, however, if you engage in these types of activities while laying in bed, your brain begins to associate your bed with work-related activities, thus making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.

Nutritional sleep enhancers

We’re all familiar with the phrase “you are what you eat,” but have you ever considered that “you sleep like you eat”?

Nutritionists and sleep experts have conducted studies that indicate certain nutritional intake can help enhance the quality of your sleep. It has been shown, for example, that eating kiwis before bed will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. The reasoning isn’t entirely known, but experts say it may be due to the antioxidant properties and high levels of serotonin of the fruit.

kiwi sleep health
sleep health night milk

Milk is another nutritional sleep enhancer. In particular, “Night Milk.” Night milk is milk that has been harvested at night (hence the name) and contains high levels of tryptophan and melatonin. These two substances have been shown to decrease sleep onset and increase sleep duration. Furthermore, Almond milk has also been shown to improve sleep, due to its particularly high levels of magnesium. 

Lastly, drinking a cup of hot tea before bed has been known to help induce sleep onset. In particular, Chamomile and Valerian tea have been used for centuries to help trigger sleep onset. The relaxing and calming affects these teas have can help reduce anxiety and stress, and therefore help you fall asleep more quickly. A study published in the BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies journal found that people who consumed chamomile tea before bed were 33% less likely to awaken in the middle of the night, and fell asleep 15% faster than those who did not consume the tea.

sleep health chamomile tea

The short list we provided here is intended to be a primer when it comes to how nutrition can impact your sleep. The important takeaway should be to become conscientious of your nighttime dietary choices, and find out exactly which dietary considerations work best for you!

The Stages of Sleep

Every night when we go to bed, we cycle through stages of sleep. Each stage serves a specific function, and cycling through as many cycles as possible is crucial for sleep health.

What is a sleep cycle?

During a sleep cycle, we cycle through the four different stages of sleep. Each cycle isn’t the same in length, however, they last roughly 90 minutes in duration. The more cycles a person can sleep through greatly enhances the quality of their rest. Furthermore, when a person wakes up during this cycle can also increase or decrease the level of their wakefulness. If someone wakes up during REM or deep sleep, they’re saturated with melatonin, which will make them feel sleepy once awake.

What are the different stages of sleep?

The four stages of sleep consist of one REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage, and three NREM (Non-REM) stages.

Stage 1 NREM N1 1-5 minutes
Stage 2 NREM N2 10-60 minutes
Stage 3 NREM N3, Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS), Delta Sleep, Deep Sleep 20-40 minutes
Stage 4 REM REM Sleep 10-60 minutes


Stage 1
Considered the stage when you “doze off.” During this stage, the body hasn’t fully relaxed, but brain activity does begin to slow. This is a very short stage, and lasts only around 5 minutes.

Stage 2
The muscles begin to relax, breathing and heart rate decline, and body temperature begins to drop. This stage lasts roughly 10-25 minutes.

Stage 3
Known as “deep sleep.” During this stage, the body becomes subdued and the brain begins to produce Delta wave patterns. It is in this stage that musculoskeletal repair of the body takes place. This stage lasts about 20-40 minutes.

Stage 4
Known as the Rapid Eye Movement stage. During this stage, the body becomes paralized and our eyes begin to twitch back and forth. It is during this stage that we dream. REM sleep is essential for cognitive functions such as memory, creativity, and emotional processing. This stage lasts about 10 minutes during the first sleep cycle, and can last up to an hour during the final sleep cycle.