Sleep 101: The A to Zzzz of great sleep

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Whether it’s studying for midterms, working on a new project or exercising at the gym – we put our mind and bodies through a lot. And while sleep often takes the backseat to the demands of our busy schedules, the importance of getting enough can’t be overstated.  

So, let’s explore what happens during those unconscious hours, why it’s so important and what you can do to get more restful slumber. 

How does sleep work? 

Sleep isn’t a uniform state; it’s a dynamic process with 4 different stages, each of which serves a distinct purpose. By going through the full cycle, you’re more likely to wake up feeling refreshed and energized. 

  • Stage 1: NREM-1 (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) is when brain activity slows down and your body shifts from wakefulness to sleep mode. You’re in this stage for only about 5% of your total sleep time. 
  • Stage 2: NREM-2 is a deeper stage of sleep; brain activity slows even more—and your body temperature and heart rate drop too. This occupies roughly 50% of your total slumber and is essential for creating memories and processing information learned during the day. 
  • Stage 3: NREM-3, aka slow-wave sleep, is your deepest and most restorative stage of sleep. This period is vital for immunity, hormone regulation, and tissue, cell and muscle repair. You’ll spend about 20% of zZz’s in this state.  
  • Stage 4: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is when you’ll experience increased brain activity and vivid dreaming. It’s key for emotional processing, memory, learning, creativity and even problem-solving skills. You enter REM about 90 minutes after dozing off and then again throughout the night in cycles.   

Why is sleep important? 

Your four-stage sleep process is fundamental to your wellbeing, impacting your physical, mental and emotional health. It’s a vital function that allows your body and mind to rest, restore and regenerate.  

When you’re sleeping, your body repairs tissues, consolidates memories and releases essential hormones, processes that have a big effect on your brain health, immunity, mood, memory and stress management.  

So what happens when you don’t reach the recommended 7 hours?1 A bad night every now and then will just slow you down the next day, but shorting your sleep regularly can lead to a slew of harmful effects: increased risk of chronic illnesses, impaired cognitive function, weakened immune system, mood disturbances, weight gain and a reduction in overall well-being. 

6 tips for better sleep 

If you have trouble sleeping, you know how agonizing it can be: You lie in bed, but sleep doesn’t come. Or you snatch a few hours only to wake feeling drained. Thankfully, there are things you can do. To help with a better night’s rest, here are 6 tips: 

1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule  

Build a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock and can lead to more consistent and restful sleep.  

2. Have a wind-down routine 

A relaxing bedtime routine signals to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for bed. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a warm bath or listening to music, build a habit to calm your mind. 

3. Create a sleep-friendly room 

Transform your bedroom into a cozy sleep sanctuary. Keep the room dark, quiet and cool. Use soft, breathable bedding and if your mattress is uncomfortable, invest in one that fits your comfort level (trust me, it’s worth it!).  

And, if you live in a noisy area, try using earplugs, an eye mask or a white noise machine to block out any disruptive noises or lights. 

4. Put away your screens 

While it’s tempting to scroll your phone in bed, the blue light it emits can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle. Try to disconnect from your phone and other electronics at least an hour before bed or use blue light filters to minimize their impact. 

5. Get moving  

Moving your body can positively affect sleep patterns and increase the duration of deep sleep. Exercise not only helps tire your body physically, making it easier to fall asleep, but it also releases endorphins, brain chemicals that naturally lift mood and promote relaxation.  

The caveat: exercising too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect and increase alertness. So it’s best to schedule your workout at least a few hours before bedtime to allow your body to wind down. 

6. Manage stress 

Stress may be one of the biggest culprits for poor sleep. It often causes your mind to race, making it hard to fall asleep and disrupting sleep stages when you do. To ease stress, find ways to soothe your mind through meditation, journaling, sipping hot tea or another relaxing activity. 

Read next: 5 ways to optimize your bedroom for better sleep

Gabby is a Nutritionist with a master’s degree in strategic communications. She loves using her nutrition-fluency with storytelling to encourage positive change. Before Persona, she worked at a mental health clinic helping clients manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues through diet.    

Gabby is just one of the many experts at Persona who are here to accelerate your wellness journey. If you have questions about nutrition or your personalized program, reach out now or book a free appointment with Gabby or another of our amazing nutritionists.   

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.      

This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional, or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal, or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.        


  1. The state of sleep health in america in 2023 – sleephealth. 

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