How to Maximise Sleep Quality when you’re Short of Time

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Mar 18, 2022
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If you’ve ever tracked your sleep, you will know that when we are asleep we spend some of the time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and some in non-REM (NREM) sleep. What you might not know though, is that we actually go through four different phases of sleep. Understanding these phases, and how you can maximise the time you can commit to sleep, will ensure you are well rested, even when life gets in the way…

The Sleep Stages

Stages 1-3 are NREM phases. As you start to fall asleep, you enter stage one. This is essentially the ‘drifting off’ stage and this usually lasts 1-5 minutes. Typically, this stage only happens when you fall asleep, and not at the start of every sleep cycle.

In stage two, brain activity slows, body temperature drops and the muscles relax. Stage two typically lasts 10-25 minutes, and during the night you will spend around50% of your sleep in this stage.

Stage three is when you enter a deep sleep. Muscle tone, breathing and brain activity decrease further, and it’s difficult to wake someone in this phase. This is where the most restorative sleep occurs, and this type of sleep is critical to our well being. This stage typically lasts 20-40 minutes.

Next you enter into REM sleep, which is when vivid dreams occur. This type of sleep is essential to your memory, creativity and learning, and we spend around 25% of our night in REM sleep.

Both REM sleep and stage three sleep are particularly important. In the first half of the night you spend more time in stage three, the restorative stage, and as the night goes on, this phase gets shorter, and the REM phase becomes longer.

The Importance of Quality Over Quantity

When asked how much sleep you get each night, if the answer is anything under eight hours, it’s expected that you will be struggling to manage. While our sleep needs are all different, for most of us there is a sweet spot, and it might actually not be as much as you would have thought.

Falling asleep quickly, and being able to stay asleep is essential to maximise the amount of quality sleep you’re able to get, particularly when time is short. The average adult needs between 6-9 hours sleep each night. Six hours doesn’t sound like a lot, but if this is all you are able to commit to sleep on a regular basis, it is possible to make this work, and feel at your best. The trick is preparing the mind and the body efficiently for sleep, to ensure you drift off to sleep quickly and easily, and once you are asleep, that you’re able to cycle through stage 3 and 4 as needed to restore and develop.

Maximising Sleep Quality

Creating a great bedtime routine is key to preparing for sleep. Your sleep environment is also vital to maximise your sleep quality. Here are our top tips…

  1. Set a bedtime: While it might not be something     you expected was necessary as an adult, having a routine when it comes to     sleep is a great way to ensure you’re able to get to sleep easily and     quickly. When you wake and go to sleep at the same time every day, your     body comes to expect when to be asleep, thus making it easier to slip into     sleep when you do lie down.


  1. Introduce a wind down period:  Time before bed without screens is     essential. Following a set routine each night will tell your mind and body     that it’s time for bed. Small things like getting changed, using a     lavender room spray and dimming the lights all signal that it’s time to     get ready for sleep. A great way to prepare is to start to calm the     breath. Melo is a great tool to use before     sleep, taking you through calming breathing exercises with little thought     or mental input needed from your side.


  1. Create the perfect environment: We all sleep better in a cool room, with an extra layer, rather than in a warm room with less bedclothes. The ideal room temperature for sleep is 18 degrees Celsius. If you feel cold with this temperature, try a weighted blanket. Not only will this help you stay warm and comfortable, but it will also encourage you to fall asleep quickly, and stay asleep for longer.


Now that you understand sleep cycles and how to improve sleep quality, you can maximise the sleep that you get, even when time is limited, to ensure you feel well rested, no matter how busy life gets.

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TheaWellbeing and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material on is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health-related programs.