What makes a person a light or heavy sleeper?

Do I just have to get up and run? 
Do I just have to get up and run? 

What makes a person a light or heavy sleeper?

What makes a person a light or heavy sleeper?

Genetics, lifestyle habits, and undiagnosed sleep disorders may play a role. In addition, some studies suggest that differences in brainwave activity during sleep can also make a person a light or heavy sleeper.

But no matter which category you fall into, one thing is certain: both the quantity and quality of sleep you get play an important role in your health.

Everyone should alternate between light and deep sleep every night During sleep, you alternate between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) cycles, which repeat about every 90 minutes. NREM sleep consists of three phases, the first being the lightest, when you are most likely to be awakened, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Phase one, the stage between wakefulness and sleep, is called light sleep.

Deeper sleep begins in phase two when your breathing and heart rate slows down and your body temperature drops.

Phase three is the deepest and most restful phase of sleep (it is also called “slow-wave sleep”) when breathing slows down further, muscles relax, and tissues grow and repair.

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Next comes REM sleep, which is characterized by your eyes moving quickly from side to side and brain activity, heart rate, and blood pressure more closely resembling wakefulness than sleep, according to the Sleep Foundation. This is the stage of sleep when most dreaming occurs and when important parts of memory consolidation take place.

In general, as people age, they spend less time in the slow and REM sleep stages and more time in the lighter stages, according to a March 2018 review article published in Sleep Medicine Clinics.

  • However, it’s also important to note that the amount of time someone spends in light or deep sleep for a night can vary greatly from person to person and from night tonight. Also, the amount of deep sleep someone gets does not necessarily correlate with the amount of sleep they get overall. Someone who sleeps eight hours a night may not experience as much slow-wave deep sleep as someone who sleeps only six hours a night.

“There may be some overlap between what people subjectively feel about the depth of their sleep and what we find in the laboratory when we measure the different stages of sleep,” says David Neubauer, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins College School of Medicine and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore. “But it’s not necessarily the same thing.”

So what makes someone a restless sleeper?

Previous research suggests that differences in the way sleeping people respond to noise may be related to levels of brain activity called sleep spindles. The researchers found that people whose brains produced the most of these high-frequency sleep spindles were more able to overhear loud noises. However, more research is needed to confirm the findings.

If someone does not feel rested and believes it’s because they are not getting enough sleep, they should look into the factors that may be contributing to their inability to achieve deep sleep, Dr. Neubauer says. Things like drinking alcohol too close to bedtime or in large amounts can disrupt healthy and consistent sleep cycles, as inconsistent sleep patterns, according to the Sleep Foundation. A doctor may recommend a sleep study in a sleep lab or an at-home sleep test to determine if a sleep disorder could be the cause, Neubauer says.

Some sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, can contribute to light sleep by causing nighttime awakenings due to irregularities in breathing.

But just because you feel like you are a light sleeper,


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