Restorative Sleep: Why It Matters & How to Achieve It

woman sleeping with sleep mask on

All this month, we’ve been focusing on the power of sleep for combatting stress on our blog. This has been a particularly stressful and challenging year for many of us, and it’s important that we’re all keeping our health at the forefront of our minds. 

As we all know, getting plenty of sleep is a touchstone of good health. We’re aware of the key functions of sleep, such as restoring tissue, storing memories, and solidifying muscle growth. But have you ever thought of the “type” of sleep that you’re getting at night? 

If you’re tossing and turning often, waking up periodically, or confronting insomnia, you probably aren’t getting a truly restorative night of rest. Restorative sleep has recently become a focus of health experts and enthusiasts, as this is the type of sleep where growing and healing happens.

What exactly is restorative sleep?

According to Psychology Today, restorative sleep consists of the completion of all four stages of sleep, and also the chemical changes that occur within a 24-hour period that allow the brain and body systems to be repaired, heal, and grow.

What are the four stages of sleep?

There are two main categories of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Each of these categories is essential to achieving truly restorative sleep, encouraging the body and mind to heal itself overnight. 

The four stages of sleep identified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine include:

    1. Stage 1 (Stage NREM1) - the period of light sleep and wakefulness when a person is first falling asleep, featuring alpha waves;
    2. Stage 2 (Stage NREM2) - the period where a person transitions between wakefulness and deeper sleep, featuring theta waves.
    3. Stage 3 (Delta or Slow-Wave Sleep) - the period of slow-wave sleep (SWS) where a person first engages in restorative sleep. This stage, featuring delta waves, is associated with stabilized glucose levels, human growth hormone, and overall body restoration.
    4. Stage REM - the period of deep REM sleep featuring rapid eye movement where a person dreams. This stage is characterized by cellular regeneration, cognitive restoration, and memory retention.

Although restorative functions do occur in every sleep stage, the phases of SWS and REM sleep are the two where our bodies and minds undergo the most renewal.

How to achieve restorative sleep at night

The key to getting restorative sleep and reaching those deeper stages every night is to consider your nighttime behaviors. What are you doing at night that might be affecting your ability to fall asleep? What is your “winding down” routine just before bed? Asking yourself these questions is the first place to start.

When creating a healthy bedtime routine, one of the essential tips is to coordinate a sleep environment that induces relaxation and comfort. Choosing high-quality, organic bedding can have a major impact on how your bed feels and whether it’s inviting. 

You should focus on winding down for at least 30 minutes before sleep time, which you can do by quietly reading, doing some low-impact stretching, listening to soothing music, meditating, or drinking decaffeinated tea. It’s also critical to disconnect from your devices, as blue light can be very damaging to restorative sleep.

If you’re still having sleep problems after adjusting your nighttime routine, there are certain behavioral and/or environmental interventions you can try: 

  • Reduction or avoidance of caffeine
  • Elimination of tobacco
  • Chronotherapy, or stabilized time of waking. (It’s important to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day!)
  • Eating a higher protein diet while cutting back on sugar, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners
  • Regular exercise; however, avoid working out within four hours of bedtime

At Naturepedic, we strive to promote healthy sleep habits that encourage deep, restorative sleep every night. This is why all of our mattresses and sleep products are made with GOTS-certified organic materials. To learn more about our certifications and how they contribute to healthy, stress-free sleep, you can read about it on our blog.