Snorign Mouthpieces
<h2 class="entry-title"><a href="https://sleepsherpa.com/top-5-snoring-devices/" rel="bookmark">Top 5 Snoring Devices 2019</a></h2>

Recently updated on July 16th, 2021 at 11:19 pm

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Snoring affects people of all age groups. However, habitual snoring usually begins after the age of thirty and is more prevalent among overweight people. The US has around 33% overweight adult population, and every third American is a habitual snorer. It not only affects the sleep quality of the snorer, in some cases their partner too is affected.

What is snoring and why does it occur?

As an adult American, you must be putting up with the gruff and harsh nasal sounds quite often.

Snoring produces an intermittent pattern of loud nasal sounds followed by a few seconds of silence during which breathing pauses.

There are several reasons for snoring. Major among them are:

  • Seasonal viral infections such as cold and cough
  • Throat and chest infection
  • Blockage of the nasal passage
  • Advancing age
  • Habitual alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • The construction of one’s mouth and jaws
  • The uneven partition of the nose’s two tunnels
  • The placement of sinuses
  • Lack of sleep
  • Sleeping position

When you are drifting from a shallow sleep to deep sleep, the muscles and tissues of the entire body relax. This includes the soft palate or the upper ridge of your mouth, the tongue, and throat. As they relax, the tongue ‘sticks’ to the upper ridge. This narrows the air passage and causes a partial air blockage. Thus, the air has to force itself out of the mouth. As a result, the throat tissues vibrate, producing the harsh snoring sound. Snoring is more acute in case of a narrow air passage.

Overweight people have a thicker inner mouth construction. Thus, they snore louder and frequently. People who sleep on their backs also tend to snore more.

At present, there is no permanent cure for snoring. However, there are snoring prevention devices available in the market that may alleviate the effects to a certain extent. Among them, anti-snoring mouthpieces and mouth guards are widely recommended by experts.

What Are Mouthguards or Mouthpieces?

 

These are anti-snoring devices that can be readily inserted or fitted into the mouth. These devices help in reducing snoring without any medical procedure or intervention. These devices are popular because of the following features:

  • Easy to use – These DIY devices do not need any external help as far as fitting is concerned.
  • Easy to maintain
  • The materials used for making these devices are certified and safe to use.
  • Prolonged use does not cause any harm.

Types of Mouthguards

There are two types of mouthguards that are popular and prescribed by the sleep care experts, they are:

Mandibular Advancement Devices or MADs

This name is derived from the lower jaw’s medical term, mandibular.

MADs help reduces snoring using a twin-action process. Because of its design, the device exerts slight tension on the mandibular or the lower jaw. This brings the jaw slightly forward and thus does not allow it to become too relaxed. Secondly, since the lower jaw is slightly projected, the tongue gets more space to settle into the mouth. Thus, it does not ‘stick’ to the upper jaw. The entire process helps in keeping the air passage open while you are asleep.

MADs are also of two types:

  • Monobloc or single-piece mouthpieces that are easier to use and are affordable.
  • Bibloc MADs have a 2-part design that is connected through adjustable joints such as elastic bands or metallic screws. These devices may cause slight discomfort during initial days. They are also costlier than the monobloc devices.

MADs can be custom-designed to suit your jaw size and mouth shape.

Tongue Retaining Devices or TRDs

Also known as TRDs, these are single-action devices. TRDs prevent the tongue from sticking to the upper jaw without projecting the lower jaw forward.

TRDs are easier to use and cheaper than MADs. However, they have a universal size, and may not fit all types of jaws making them less effective in certain cases.

As the market is flooded with several devices from multiple brands, it can become difficult to choose the best suited anti-snoring device for you. We have made this easier for you by reviewing Top 5 Anti-Snoring Devices available in the market today.

The Top 5 Mouthguard Brands

ZQuiet

zquiet snoring

 

One of the most popular MAD type of mouthguard. ZQuiet is a preferred by many users because of its following unique features:

  • Pivotal Design – ZQuiet incorporates a hinge in its design. This enables it to adjust to your mouth without any major problems. Since the hinge operates smoothly, the movement of the jaw is easy and effortless. This unique design also makes its universal size adoptable across various types of jaw and mouth shapes and sizes.
  • Exceptionally smooth air passage throughout the night. This results in superior air circulation in various stages of sleep, and in different sleeping positions.
  • Ease of Opening and Closing Of Mouth – The flexible design and smooth hinges ensure that you can open and shut your mouth easily.
  • Free Lateral Movement – The jaws can move from side to side freely.
  • Two Settings – ZQuiet operates in two settings – small and large, to offer you the easy adaptability to the mouth. This is of benefit for people who sleep in different positions during the night.
  • Superior Material – ZQuiet is made from best quality non-toxic plastic that does not produce any side effects.
  • 30-day Trial – This feature has helped establish the users’ confidence in the product.
  • Great Value for Money – Despite multiple unique features and user-friendly characteristics, ZQuiet is reasonably priced to suit every pocket.

How ZQuiet Fares?

ZQuiet is a brand that offers the best of both the worlds – value for money and great quality. Because of its exclusive pivotal design, it is especially beneficial for people who prefer minimal jaw movement and those who have a history of jaw pain.

Shop ZQuiet

SnoreRX

SnoreRX has a unique product feature of adjustable distance between the top and the bottom trays. You can vary the distance to as much as 6 millimeters using this feature. This feature makes SnoreRX the best device for those who sleep differently each night. It is also ideal for those with a habit of sleeping with their mouths open. This MAD type device also has a locking system that prevents any accidental changes to the distance setting.

The other features of SnoreRX are:

  • Boil-n-Bite – You can mold the device around your teeth using finger and tongue force, once it has softened.
  • Open Front –SnoreRX has an opening at the front. This allows easy escape of air and significantly reduces snoring.
  • Teeth cushioning for better wearing convenience
  • FDA-approved
  • Effectively Priced – The company has priced the product very competitively, and this is helping it gain more market share.
  • No need for a doctor’s prescription

All this, and more, in the form of a 30-day trial with a money-back guarantee.

How SnoreRX Fares?

SnoreRX is a serious product at a casual price. With its rich features, especially that of an adjustable tray height, this MAD is made for you. If you are considering buying this product, do so without much hesitation.

Shop SnoreRX

Good Morning Snore Solution

This small device comes with big benefits. It is considered a leading brand in the TRD segment.

The biggest advantage of Good Morning Snore Solution is that it is an over-the-counter product. No prescription is required to purchase it. Its other features are:

  • Approved by the FDA – It means that the product is 100% safe to use
  • Accredited by BBB – The manufacturer’s accreditation with the Better Business Bureau helps it gain the trust and confidence in the anti-snoring devices’ market.
  • Better Design – Good Morning Snore Solution is one of the best-designed brands in the market. Its soft material and flexibility make it user-friendly. You will not feel that you have to compromise on convenience in order to avoid snoring.
  • Non-Toxic Material – The plastic used in this device is BPA-free making it safe for use.
  • Single Size – Because of its extremely flexible and soft design, the product’s single size makes a great match with multiple types of users.

On the flip side, the Good Morning Snore Solution TRD is priced higher than its competitors.

The product comes with a 30-day trial offer.

How Good Morning Snore Solution Fares?

The Good Morning Snore Solution is a small wonder, literally. Its design, size, and flexibility make it one of the best TRDs to alleviate the snoring problem. However, great products come at a price.

Shop Good Morning Snore Solution

aveoTSD

This TRD is positioned as a no-frills, simple yet effective mouthpiece. The makers claim that it is:

  • A clinically proven product known for its efficacy
  • Simple to use yet effective
  • Non-invasive
  • Very reasonably priced TRD

Looking at the features of aveoTSD, it can be considered as a front-runner in the TRD market.

  • Made from silicon and not plastic, which makes aveoTSD softer, easier on the jaw, and flexible
  • Lodges the tongue firmly between the upper and the lower jaws using a unique suction method
  • Does not require any adjustment or re-sizing inside the mouth
  • Single-piece, static design – The design of aveoTSD does not consist of any hinges, screws or other parts. This feature, combined with the silicon material, makes the product easy to use and maintain.
  • Available in small, medium, and large sizes
  • Competitive price – the product is priced lower than the other TRDs
  • Dentures? No problem – You can wear the device even with the dentures

How aveoTSD Fares?

aveoTSD is a good TRD if you are looking for value for money, single-piece, easy-to-maintain, and comfortable-to-wear mouthpiece.

The only negative – Doctor’s prescription is necessary to buy and use the aveoTSD device.

Check the latest prices for aveoTSD

VitalSleep

vital sleep

Makers of the VitalSleep claim that their product is recommended by doctors. That should not come as a surprise, because the product has multiple unique benefits for its users. According to the manufacturer, VitalSleep has helped over 225,000 snorers wake up to better mornings.

So, what is it that makes VitalSleep so pivotal in the MAD category?

  • FDA-approved – Which guarantees product safety
  • Boil-n-Bite – This method makes wearing the VitalSleep MAD extremely easy, comfortable, and effective. You just drop it in boiling water, let it soften, and then mold it around your jaw using finger and tongue pressure. Within seconds, you get a snugly fitting VitalSleep mouthguard. The company has a special name for this advanced feature – the Accu-Adjust System.
  • Airhole – VitalSleep has a small opening in the front. It facilitates free and smooth air circulation.
  • Available in two sizes – The regular size is for men, and the small size, for women.
  • Sleep in any position – Once VitalSleep mouthguard is inserted in your mouth; you can sleep in any position, even change positions several times in the night.
  • Breathe through your nose or mouth – The exclusive air ventilation system of the product makes breathing through the nose or the mouth seamless.

Apart from these exclusive benefits, VitalSleep offers several unique, industry-first offers that include:

  • Size Exchange – No-obligation size change if one size does not fit you well
  • Same-day shipping
  • 1-year unlimited warranty and free replacement
  • Money back guarantee and trouble-free refund procedure
  • 60-night free trial

How VitalSleep Fares?

Makers of VitalSleep pitch their product using an innovative pitch – It says, if you need a reliable, effective anti-snoring device, try this simple test. Move your lower jaw forward and then breathe through the mouth. If you can do so more freely, then VitalSleep will certainly work for you.

This sums up the product quality and performance.

However, potential buyers are advised to check the price before making the purchase.

What Precautions Should You Take Before Using a MAD or TRD Device?

Both the MAD and TRD types of mouthpieces are directly related to a vital body function – breathing. They are after all foreign bodies inserted temporarily into the mouth. If you are considering using any of these devices, these are the precautions to follow:

  • Please check thoroughly, whether the device you are thinking to buy comes with necessary certifications.
  • Please consult your family physician, or better still, a snoring specialist, before you buy any anti-snoring device. Each jaw and mouth type is unique. They can guide you to select the best-suited device for you.
  • Do not make an impulsive over-the-counter purchase, even if the device does not require a doctor’s prescription. Talk to a specialist before buying.
  • Unfortunately, if snoring persists even after wearing a device, discontinue its use immediately and consult your physician or a specialist.

The Advantages and Disadvantages

While these devices are a boon for snorers and their sleeping partners from multiple perspectives, they do have a few drawbacks. Both are noted below to help you make an informed decision.

Advantages

  • Simple and User-Friendly – Any mouthpiece, whether MAD or TRD, targets the snoring problem by tackling its root cause. They perform the primary task of opening the air passage and facilitating free air flow. This is done in simple but in ingenious ways. Further, they don’t require any intervention or elaborate process. Wearing any mouthpiece is as simple as wearing a denture. They are equally user-friendly. They don’t cause irritation or mouth ulcers, their material are food grade, and they adjust to the jaw and teeth-line very easily. Being made from high quality materials, they are 100% safe and harmless.
  • Relatively cheap and cost-effective – MADs and TRDs are priced appropriately. For example, a good mouthpiece costs just one-third of a denture. Its cost-to-benefit ratio is also very high, considering the high efficacy.
  • Maintenance-Free – MAD and TRD devices require no maintenance, except for the routine cleaning and sterilizing in boiling water.
  • Handy and Easy to Store – Being small and often flexible, these devices can be easily stored. Special cases to store them are also available.

Disadvantages

  • Occasional Side Effects – Although there are no major side effects of using MADs and TRDs, some initial discomfort and stiffening of the lower jaw is experienced by few users. This is especially true for the fixed type of devices. Apart from this, the mouth may become dry, or in some cases, excess saliva is secreted by the mouth.
  • Ineffectual on Sleep Apnea – These devices restrict only snoring, without tackling the sleep apnea disorder.
  • Short life – On an average, any MAD or TRD functions effectively for around a year. depending on various factors, a single device may last anywhere between six months to 24 months.

How to Choose the Mouthguard?

Both the MAD and TRD mouthguards have their individual characteristics. They are built on concepts that tackle the snoring problem from different angles. When buying a mouth guard, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • MAD devices are created around the concept of modularity and flexibility. They are adjustable devices that can adapt to your jaw and mouth shape and size. On the other hand, TRDs are fixed apparatuses. Which device type suits you? If needed, talk to your doctor before making a purchase. Please note, now there are varying adjustments available, as in the case of SnoreRX.
  • If you wear dentures, TRDs are your best choice.
  • If you have a habit of mouth-breathing in sleep, go for a MAD device.
  • If you have bruxism, meaning the habit of grinding teeth in sleep, MAD devices can multi-task to inhibit that condition.
  • If you need a more customized fit, a MAD mouthguard is advisable. Most of them offer different sizes.
  • If your snoring problem is caused by sleep apnea, then a mouthguard may not be the solution. Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can be treated with procedures other than the simplistic MAD or TRD devices. These treatments are discussed below.

What Are the Treatment Options For Sleep Apnea-Related Snoring?

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which the patient experiences frequent gaps in breathing during sleep. At times, these breathing intervals are more than 10 seconds, during which the lungs remain void of air supply. The brain immediately intervenes to correct the disruption and restore air supply. It awakens the person from sleep so that they can resume breathing consciously.

Depending upon the acuteness of sleep apnea, such breathing gaps can occur even hundreds of times during a single sleep cycle. These frequent interruptions severely affect the sleep quality and make the patient sleep deprived. A sleep-deprived person’s normal lifestyle gets affected, and in the long term, it can lead to major problems such as hypertension and cardiac complications.

Snoring is a major sleep apnea symptom.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

MAD and TRD devices cannot provide any relief in case the root cause of snoring is due to sleep apnea. For this purpose, there are special machines that facilitate regulated air supply artificially, and thus arrest breathing gaps during sleep. There are two types of such machines – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP machines, and their advanced version, BiPAP or BiLevel Positive Airway Pressure machines.

If you are suffering from sleep apnea and researching for its treatment, it is vital to understand how these machines work.

How Do CPAP And BiPAP Machines Function?

These systems are basically designed to provide uninterrupted and regulated air supply to the user during sleep. They consist of a regulatory machine connected to a tubed face mask. When the machine is turned on, it provides the individual constant air supply through the mask.

As the devices’ names indicate, the air flow is generated and regulated through pressure which is calibrated by the machine. The doctors attending you conduct several trials to determine the precise air pressure required for uninterrupted sleep. They then calibrate the machine settings accordingly so that it generates the desired air pressure.

With these treatments, an apnea patient can enjoy normal sleep without the interruptions.

What is the Difference Between CPAP and BiPAP Machines?

CPAP machines provide a tried-and-tested apnea treatment. They have a proven history of arresting apnea episodes by providing consistent pressurized airflow that arrests events of breathing gaps.

However, there is a drawback of CPAP machines. They are single-setting systems. You can set only one air pressure level with CPAPs. Now, a single breath consists of one inhalation and exhalation episode. These episodes don’t occur with the same air pressure. We don’t breathe in air with the same force that we breathe it out. For a comfortable and natural sleep experience, we need different airway pressures for inhalation and exhalation.

That is where BiPAP machines come into the picture.

The advanced technology of these machines overcomes the single-pressure limitation of CPAP machines. They factor in the air pressure variations in inhalation-exhalation cycles and provide the precise pressure required for hassle-free breathing.

Again, every individual sleeps differently, with dissimilar breathing counts. BiPAP machines can be customized under expert supervision, conducting sleep trials on patients. This increases the system’s efficacy and patient comfort.

Advanced BiPAP machines have three types of air pressure settings:

  • Standard – the machine automatically senses when a person stops inhaling and starts exhaling, and instantly changes the pressure accordingly.
  • Programmed – In this setting, the machine programs the inhalation and exhalation cycles and sets the air pressure accordingly, so that the individual gets a pre-determined number of breaths every minute.
  • Standard or programmed – combining the above, the machine changes air pressure as and when the breathing changes.

BiPAP machines are especially recommended for patients with pulmonary and or cardiologic disorders.

Conclusion

The twenty-first-century lifestyle is defined by two characteristics. First, our lives have become hectic and stressful with pressure to perform at peak levels on multiple fronts. Second, we have become prone to physical passiveness. The combination of these two traits has had a direct effect on the quantity and quality of our sleep.

We have been forced into sleeping less. Precisely due to this reason, it has become imperative for us to sleep better.

With snoring as a major barrier to sleep quantity and quality, the modern treatments such as MAD and TRD devices, and the CPAP and BiPAP systems for sleep apnea patients, are a timely blessing.

Special note: This is a third-party overview and should be read for a general understanding of the subject matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

anti snoring
<h2 class="entry-title"><a href="https://sleepsherpa.com/how-do-anti-snoring-mouthpieces-work/" rel="bookmark">How Do Anti Snoring Mouthpieces Work?</a></h2>

Recently updated on May 30th, 2018 at 10:47 am

How Anti-Snoring Mouthpieces Work?

Snoring is a nightmare for others, while the snorer remains oblivious to it. Whether it’s a spouse or a roommate, having someone snoring in the room can be the reason behind sleepless nights for the others. Snoring affects thousands of people, and many of them don’t even know they have a problem unless someone tells them. Those who sleep alone mostly tend to suffer from interrupted sleep and daytime sleepiness because they remain oblivious to the problem.

Snoring usually occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep. Of course, the whole body relaxes when a person sleeps, but when the throat muscles also relax, they block the air passage. This leads to difficulty breathing and snoring.

When the person sleeps, he has no idea he is snoring. However, he might wake up several times in the night with shortness of breath and a dry mouth. Snorers also usually sleep with their mouths open, leading to a dry mouth and throat. This leads to an interrupted sleep and daytime fatigue and sleepiness.

There are various medical options to prevent snoring. One of them is an anti-snoring mouthpiece. These oral devices have been designed by dentists in order to control the position of the mouth while sleeping. These devices have proven to be effective for lessening snoring. Known as mandibular advancement devices, oral mouth guards prevent the tongue from sliding to the back of the mouth and the jaw from relaxing. Oral mouthpieces also ensure that the soft palate tissue doesn’t block the air passage. These mouthpieces work like orthodontics that keep the jaw in position and enable proper breathing. An oral appliance is made and fitted by a dentist, so the patient, the doctor, and the dentist should work in close consultation.

Anti-snoring devices achieve this by exerting gentle pressure on the jawline. These mouthpieces, although effective, take some time to get used to. In the beginning, they are uncomfortable, but once the wearer gets used to it, the device can provide relief. That said, some people fail to adjust to oral mouthpieces because they are too uncomfortable and exert too much pressure on the jaw and teeth. For those people, there are alternate methods like surgery to prevent the blocking of the airway.

It must be remembered that anti-snoring oral mouthpieces must be recommended by a doctor and fitted by a dentist because these devices must fit the shape of your mouth. There are self-fitting oral mouthguards available online, but they aren’t FDA approved. Self-fitting devices don’t require the recommendation of a doctor and can be bought by anyone. But the FDA says that those buying these devices are only diagnosing their snoring and possibly overlooking underlying medical conditions like sleep apnea. It is always advised to consult a doctor before buying any oral anti-snoring mouthguard.

Oral appliances are a common alternative to CPAP ( a mask worn during sleep, which supplies air continuously to keep the air passage unblocked). They are also cost-effective because you only have to buy them once. However, make sure the device is non-toxic, made with medical grade materials, and is both BPA and latex free.

 

CPAP Alternatives
<h2 class="entry-title"><a href="https://sleepsherpa.com/top-6-cpap-alternatives-alleviate-snoring/" rel="bookmark">Top 6 CPAP Alternatives to Alleviate Snoring</a></h2>

Recently updated on September 22nd, 2017 at 01:51 pm

 

What are the CPAP Alternatives for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common problem that affects over 18 million people around the world. More often than not, sleep apnea isn’t recognized, diagnosed, or properly treated. But when sleep apnea is detected, the go-to treatment is often the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This involves wearing a mask while you sleep, which supplies air continuously to keep the air passage unblocked and facilitate normal breathing. If you, or someone you know, suffer from sleep apnea, you must have used or have been recommended to try CPAP.

Although a very effective treatment in dealing with sleep apnea, it often takes a lot of effort to get used to the mask. It causes claustrophobia, nightmares, dry and irritated throat, and nasal problems. Many people never get used to it, and several studies have found that more than 86 percent of sleep apnea sufferers never get comfortable with CPAP machines.

While a good solution for sleep apnea, CPAP is definitely not the only treatment for the condition. With technological advances, several alternatives to CPAP have been invented. They are often minimally invasive and provide long term treatment for sleep apnea.

Here are six alternative options for CPAP non-compliant people:

Oral Appliances

Also called Oral Appliance Therapy, dental appliances form the safest and simplest alternative to CPAP. This appliance is customized to fit the mouth of the patient and is worn only during sleep. Dental mouthpieces work like orthodontics that keep the jaw in position and enable proper breathing. This appliance is made and fitted by a dentist, so the patient, the doctor, and the dentist should work in close consultation about the device.

Oral devices are portable, comfortable, and don’t have the side effects of a CPAP. They are also often cheaper than CPAP, and more convenient when traveling.

Laser Surgery

The piece of tissue hanging down the back of your throat is called the uvula, and most often, this tiny projection is the cause of obstructive sleep apnea. The condition can be treated by minimizing an enlarged or extended uvula with the help of laser surgery. While traditional removal of the uvula is complicated and results in a number of side effects, laser surgery takes less than 30 minutes and is generally less complicated. With the removal or minimizing of the uvula, symptoms of sleep apnea are controlled, and proper sleep is restored.

Laser Tonsil Ablation

When tonsils are the ones blocking the airway, reducing their size can often provide relief from sleep apnea and snoring. This is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a laser to reduce the size of the tonsils and unblock the airway. The process takes around thirty minutes and is generally performed under local anesthesia. Compared to other forms of surgical procedures to cure sleep apnea and related symptoms, laser tonsil ablation has little to no discomfort, requires no hospital stay, and does not need the tonsil to be removed. Laser tonsil ablation is a common alternative to CPAP to treat sleep apnea as well as other tonsil disorders.

Positional Therapy

If a patient suffers from positional sleep apnea, then positional therapy is an effective solution. People sleeping on their backs, also called the supine position, often suffer from sleep disorders because of the obstruction of the airway. Positional therapy involves wearing a device that keeps a person on their side while they are asleep. This solution works only for those who suffer from mild sleep apnea that is corrected when they sleep on their side. For more severe cases, this therapy may not be effective.

Acupuncture or Acupressure

In a recent study, acupuncture and acupressure were found to be more effective than CPAP. They provide relief by stimulating the muscles of the upper air passage. This is a holistic method that aims to relieve sleep apnea sufferers without medications, devices, or surgery. However, this is again a procedure that works best for mild sleep apnea. For more complex problems, a more potent treatment needs to be followed.

Radiofrequency Tongue Ablation

If sleep apnea and snoring are being caused by an abnormal positioning of the tongue, then radiofrequency tongue ablation is a procedure that could provide relief. This procedure often proves helpful for those with an enlarged tongue that gets in the way of airflow. This minimally invasive procedure involves shrinking and tightening the base of the tongue with the help of radiofrequency technology, and usually takes less than thirty minutes.

Sleep apnea, if left untreated, can lead to severe health problems, including cardiac issues and hypertension. While CPAP is still the most widely used treatment for sleep apnea, there are alternatives that are designed for people uncomfortable with the CPAP device. Even if CPAP isn’t for you, there are other options that can provide long-term relief from the problem.

sleep stages and sleep cycles explained
<h2 class="entry-title"><a href="https://sleepsherpa.com/stages-of-sleep-and-sleep-cycles-explained/" rel="bookmark">Stages of Sleep and Sleep Cycles Explained [Infographic]</a></h2>

Recently updated on May 30th, 2020 at 03:06 pm

Besides food, sleep is the most important requirement of every living being, including humans. Sleep refreshes and rejuvenates us, helping our bodies repair and recharge. Sleep stages and sleep cycles play a very crucial role in this process. Whether we are tired, sick, or stressed, sleep heals and re-energizes us.

The process of sleep can be complicated to understand. It isn’t as simple as closing our eyes and dozing off. Several complex processes take place in the brain, bringing about sleep. Our brains work as hard while we are sleeping as when we are awake. Sleep is divided into different stages and cycles. Controlled by the production of hormone regulation, muscle recovery, and memory formation, the primary sleep hormone, the hypothalamus signals the rest of the body if it is time to sleep or to stay awake. Disruption in melatonin production affects the normal sleep-wake cycle.

To understand sleep, we need to understand the different sleep stages and sleep cycles in detail.

What Are Different Sleep Stages?

When we sleep, our brains pass through five different stages, ranging from light to deep sleep. The stages are classified into REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. During the night, our bodies go through the five stages four to five times. Each cycle consists of the five stages. This means, while we sleep, our bodies go through four or five sleep cycles. Each cycle of sleep is roughly 90 minutes long. In an 8-hour sleep, there are four to five 90 minute cycles. In infants and children, each stage is about 50 to 60 minutes long.

Each stage of sleep has an important role in the sleep cycle. All five stages play their own function in rejuvenating and recharging the body for the next day. This includes hormone regulation, muscle recovery, and memory formation. Without enough time to sleep, most of these functions remain incomplete, resulting in fatigue and sleepiness. We might think that only deep sleep is the important stage, but all the stages are equally essential. Without a full night of sleep, the sleep cycle isn’t complete, and the restoration work remains unfulfilled.

Stage 1 of Sleep

Depending on how tired you are, it takes only a few seconds to enter the first stage of sleep, called the transitional phase. This is a non-REM stage, which means the sleep isn’t deep at all. The sleep in this phase is the lightest. People usually flit in and out of consciousness in this stage. If you are exhausted, it will take you only a few seconds to enter the transitional stage, but if you suffer from insomnia or have delayed sleep onset, it can take you an hour or more. Usually, you can still hear everything that’s going on around you and even the slightest noise can wake you up. It is also normal to toss and turn and try to get comfortable. Waking up from this stage is also quick and easy.

In this stage, sometimes your muscles will jerk, jolting you awake. This is called hypnic myoclonia, sleep twitch, or hypnic jerk. These jerks happen because of involuntary muscular contractions. It has been named after the hypnagogic state which is the transitional phase between wakefulness and sleep. Although not all people experience this, they are very common while a person is drifting off. You might even wake up with a start feeling like you were falling. This stage lasts between one and seven minutes. The first stage leads to the second stage of the sleep cycle.

Stage 2 of Sleep

The second stage of sleep is also a non-REM phase, but it is still deeper than the first stage. This phase is when muscles relax, heartbeats begin to slow down, core body temperature drops, eye movements stop, and the person completely drifts off to sleep. Waking up from this stage isn’t as quick as the first stage because the person is making his way to deep sleep. Although this is also a light sleep stage, a person spends more than 50 percent of his sleep in this phase, making it the longest stage in the cycle.

Stage two of the sleep cycle is the precursor to deep sleep. Electrical activity in the brain occurs at a lower frequency compared to the first stage. Brain waves become smaller, with occasional spurts of rapid waves. This phase lasts between 10 and 20 minutes, leading to the third stage.

Stage 3 of Sleep

The third phase can be called the most important stage of the sleep cycle. Lasting between 10 and 40 minutes, this is the stage when sleep is the deepest. During this phase, the heart rate and breathing are at the lowest, and the person has no consciousness of what is happening around him. Waking up from this stage is difficult; if you wake someone up from this stage of sleep, they will remain groggy and disoriented for some time before awakening fully. This stage is also called slow wave sleep when growth and restorative hormones are released.

These hormones have an important role in the development and nourishment of the body. In infants and children, a significant portion of brain and body development takes places at this sleep stage. Besides the growth, these hormones also aid in appetite control. The growth hormones aid in replenishing muscles and tissues that were used during that day, while the hormone leptin suppresses appetite and limits the feeling of excessive hunger. When a person doesn’t get sufficient sleep, leptin doesn’t function well, leading to a rise in the appetite-inducing hormone ghrelin. This is why lack of sleep has a connection with weight gain and obesity

Stage 4 of Sleep

This is also a non-REM phase, but the sleep is almost like a coma. It takes a long time to wake up from this stage. This stage of the sleep cycle is often compared to a comatose state because the heart rate and the body temperature are at the lowest, resembling a person in a coma. Muscle movements don’t occur in this stage, while the breathing is rhythmic. A person usually doesn’t turn or change sides in this stage because the body is completely immobile. This stage lasts around 30 minutes, around when the delta waves are produced.

The delta waves in the brain are associated with relaxation and sleep. Delta waves also enhance the body’s healing abilities. These slow deep waves are responsible for deep sleep. The higher the delta waves, the deeper the sleep. Delta waves are most commonly found in infants because they sleep the deepest. As a person ages, delta waves are produced less. This is also the stage when bedwetting, night terrors, and sleepwalking occurs. Although the causes are unclear, when these instances happen, the person has no memory of them. Even if a person wakes up briefly during this sleep phase, they soon fall back asleep and have no memory of waking up.

Stage 5 of Sleep or REM Stage

This is the final stage in the sleep cycle and the only REM phase. This stage is different from the other sleep phases because this is when the brain begins to get active. Most adults spend around 20 percent of their entire sleep in this REM stage, while newborns and babies spend about 50 percent. In all the previous stages, both the mind and the body are at rest, healing and recharging. But in the REM stage, the mind starts waking up and getting active, while the body is still inactive. The REM sleep stage is called Rapid Eye Movement phase because the eyes move in various directions behind closed eyelids, but the muscles are immobile to prevent the person from acting out dreams.

In this stage, the breathing is shallow and irregular, while the heart rate and blood pressure begin to rise. This is also the stage when dreams occur. That is why most dreams occur in the early morning because that’s the last phase of the sleep cycle. People wake up after the REM stage, and the body temperature comes to normal.

What Factors Affect Sleep Stages and Sleep Cycles?

Although the sleep cycle is made up of these five stages, the cycle isn’t the same in every individual. When the sleep cycle doesn’t take place normally, it results in sleep disorders. There is no certainty that every person will sleep for eight hours or have five sleep cycles. Some people may wake up even before reaching REM sleep. Certain individuals take a few seconds to drift off to sleep while others take an hour or two. This cycle may naturally be a specific way, because of the changes in the structure and function of the brain during development, or may be affected by various external factors.

More often than not, external factors are responsible for regulating the sleep cycle a certain way. Most important among these factors are:

·       Age of the Person

Most of us are aware that sleep patterns change with age. Over our lifespan, the amount of time we spend sleeping each day gradually declines. Newborns and infants sleep the maximum, anywhere between 16 and 20 hours each day. Children up to the age of four sleep around 11 to 12 hours. As the child grows up, the amount of sleep keeps declining. An adolescent needs around nine hours of sleep each night, although they may not get that much. Adults need at least eight hours no matter how old they grow, but after middle age, the amount gradually drops. The elderly also need eight hours, but poor sleep quality may not always let them get the full amount at one stretch. That is why those who are unable to get the required sleep at night should make up for it some other time during the day.

The decline in sleep amount and quality has been attributed to the delta waves in the brain. These slow and deep brain waves are responsible for causing deep and sound sleep. When delta waves are higher, the sleep quality is at its best. Because newborns and infants have the highest delta waves, their sleep is the deepest and longest. With age, the slow waves decline. Since REM sleep is known to be important for cognitive development, it isn’t surprising that infants and children spend more than 50 percent of the sleep in the REM stage. As the person grows older, the need for REM sleep also drops. Although sleep problems are a normal part of aging, paying attention to the sleep cycle can help improve sleeping patterns.

·       Circadian Rhythm

There is a sleep-wake balancing process that also influences our quality of sleep. We fall asleep only when there is a sleep deficit, and serotonin is acetylated to melatonin. Serotonin is the hormone for relaxation, which helps the body prepare for sleep. It is a precursor to melatonin, the sleep hormone.

This internal, biological clock can vary from one individual to another. Some people may feel sleepy at 8 in the evening while others may stay awake until midnight. Typically, the duration of this biological clock is slightly longer than 24 hours. That is why, the later you go to bed, the later you wake up the next morning. Depending upon the time you go to bed, the body clock adjusts itself. When the adjustment happens naturally, the sleep-wake cycle is free running. Because most humans are diurnal beings, the body clock syncs each day with various external factors like daylight hours, work schedule, etc. The ability of our internal clock to reset according to these factors help keep the circadian rhythm regular and boosts the quality of sleep.

Although this is an internal process, the circadian rhythm is often affected by various external factors, such as working or studying until late, driving at night, or changes in time zones. Jet lag, experienced when traveling across different time zones, takes a toll on the natural internal clock and disrupts the sleep-wake cycle.

·       Previous Wakefulness Period

We can fall asleep quickly and easily only when there is accumulated sleep. For maintaining a healthy sleep cycle, this gap between two sleep sessions is extremely important. There was a time in preindustrial Europe when people used to sleep in two phases. This was governed not by a fixed bedtime, but by whether or not there was anything to do. Back then, there was not much to do in terms of work because industries hadn’t yet begun. There was no electricity, so there was nothing to do at home either. Once dusk fell, people would go to sleep for a few hours, waking up late in the evening for an hour or two. After supper, they would go to sleep again till dawn. This bi-modal sleep was prevalent till a long time.

In our modern lifestyles, it isn’t clear whether this bi-modal sleep pattern will work. Sleep starts accumulating once we wake up in the morning. By late evening, when enough sleep has accumulated, we start to feel tired and drowsy. This indicates that our energy resources are depleted, and we need to recharge. If the gap between two sleep sessions is too small, sleep doesn’t accumulate enough, resulting in delayed sleep onset. That is why people who suffer from insomnia are discouraged from napping because sleeping in the middle of the day shortens the time between the two sleep sessions. The longer you go without sleep, the more your sleep deficit.

·       Ambient or Environmental Factors

Our surroundings play a key role in our sleep cycle. Environmental factors are often among the biggest causes of sleep disorders, although they usually go undiagnosed.  The temperature of the room, ambient noise, light, comfort of the bed, and electronic distractions play a crucial role in the ability to fall and stay asleep. It was found in several studies that those who live in a poorer underprivileged neighborhood are more likely to suffer from sleep issues because of environmental distractions. Passing vehicles till late in the night, noisy neighbors, talking and screaming, loud music and TV, as well as an uncomfortable bed and improper temperature of the room, affect the quality of sleep.

Ambient noise is the greatest environmental factor affecting sleep. From the low hum of the fridge to the ticking of the clock to the TV in the next room to noisy kids upstairs, noises can keep you up at night. An uncomfortable bed is also a potential cause of sleep issues. The wrong mattress, a bed that’s too small, or sheets that cause friction are some of the factors. The type of climate we live in also plays a role in regulating our sleep cycle. Extremely cold regions get a little sun, and people living in such a climate produce more melatonin in response to the low light. Those living in warmer regions are more alert and awake because of constant sunshine and less melatonin production. If not removed, many of these environmental distractions can cause serious sleep disorders in the long run.

·       Stress and Medications

Among other factors that affect the sleep cycle is stress. The stress hormone cortisol is famous for suppressing melatonin production. The higher the level of cortisol, the lower the level of melatonin. The lower the production of melatonin, the poorer your quality of sleep and the higher the production of cortisol. This vicious cycle often has no end if the person fails to address the stressors and lower his level of stress. Unless cortisol is low, melatonin production will not be sufficient. Chronic stress can lead to insomnia, depression, anxiety, and even cardiac problems.

Certain medications, such as beta blockers (given for high blood pressure) and immunosuppressants can lower the production of melatonin and cause sleep disorders. Medications for blood thinning and heart arrhythmia block the neurotransmitters responsible for the production of melatonin. Those who take such medications regularly are also given sleeping aid to counter any sleep issues.

Aside from medications, alcohol, smoking, and other such addictions also suppress the production of melatonin and cause sleep disorders. Artificial light from electronic devices also causes sleep disorders. This is why those who stay in front of the computer for long hours often have difficulty falling asleep because too much of light suppresses melatonin production. Using the phone before going to bed, reading on a backlit device, or keeping a night lamp on contribute to melatonin suppression.

How To Improve Sleep Quality?

External factors affect sleep quality to a great extent, but much of it could also be genetic. If genetics is the driving factor, there isn’t any way to change them, but external factors can always be changed or removed to restore normal sleep. If the sleep cycle is affected by any underlying medical condition like snoring or sleep apnea, then they cannot be cured by making a few external changes. Such sleep disorders require proper diagnosis and treatment.

If you know that your sleep keeps getting disrupted because of ambient factors, there are several steps you can take to minimize the distractions and restore normal sleep.

·       Create A Sleep Cocoon

Your bedroom should be synonymous with sleep; avoid using it for other purposes like working or eating. This is difficult if you don’t have much space in the house, but if you can help it, avoid making your bedroom your office or entertainment corner as best as possible. Make your bedroom your sleep cocoon so that the moment you enter the room, your body gets into relaxation mode. This can be done by removing distractions like electronics, putting up blinds or curtains to keep out ambient lights, prepping the bed. You may also paint the room in a soothing shade, decorating the walls with pictures that make you feel happy and relaxed. Using essential oils like lavender will banish odor and also calm and relax you.

·       Choose Right Kind of Mattress

If you have never taken a hard look at the mattress you sleep on, now is the time to. More often than not, people spend most of their lives sleeping on the wrong mattress. Even though the bed is such deeply connected to our sleep quality, we hardly ever stop to notice if we are comfortable enough. A mattress that’s old, worn out, too hot or too cold, too soft or too firm can do more than just ruin your sleep. Sleeping on the wrong mattress for a prolonged period can have far-reaching effects on your health, causing aches and pains in various parts of the anatomy and even leading to serious conditions like cervical spondylitis.

There are several mattress choosing guides available online that help you pick the right mattress depending upon your body weight, sleeping position, and other factors like whether you sleep hot or cold. Depending on the company you choose, you could also have a mattress customized for your needs. Memory foam, innerspring, and latex are some of the popular mattresses today, and they come in various firmness levels. Some are more comfortable than others, but you can always make use of the trial period to find the mattress that suits you best.

·       Avoid Screen Time Before Bed

At least two hours until bedtime, reduce the time you spend in front of a backlit device such as TV, phone, tablet, or computer. If possible, also avoid staying in brightly lit rooms before you go to bed. The lesser you expose yourself to artificial light, the more melatonin is produced, aiding in better sleep. While getting up at night, avoid switching on the lights in the room. Either use footlights or keep a small flashlight handy. Switching on lights in the middle of the night reduces your ability to fall back asleep.

·       Cut Down Caffeine, Alcohol, and Tobacco Consumption

As already discussed, certain substances like caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol block the neurotransmitters responsible for producing melatonin and make us stay alert and awake. Consumption of these substances close to bedtime has been found to aid in sleep loss and insomnia. Even if you smoke or drink at other times of the day, try to avoid it in the two hours leading to bedtime. Avoid all the things that boost metabolism and hinder the production of melatonin close to bedtime, including exercise and other activities that increase your heart rate.

·       Block Ambient Disturbance

If you live in a noisy neighborhood, it can be a potential cause for disrupted sleep. Footsteps above your head, honking vehicles outside your house, or loud music next doors can cause significant distress. You can take measures to prevent this from turning into a nightly affair. Insulation against noise is one of the best solutions against ambient noise. Soundproof glass, carpeting, thick curtains lined with wool, and foam insulation for the walls are some of the measures. If all else fails, consider getting a white noise machine, which drowns out ambient noise by playing some pre-recorded sound like rainfall or ocean waves.

·       Improve Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is all about routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, using crisp clean and comfortable sheets, keeping the room clutter free and well ventilated, and avoiding a heavy meal before bedtime are some of the sleep hygiene measures that can improve sleep quality over time.

Understanding the sleep cycle is often the first step to better sleep quality. When you know, what affects your sleep cycle, you can take measures to cut out distractions and get ample restful sleep every night.

Also, to help you understand the various sleep stages and sleep cycles easily, we have also created an infographic for this.


Sleep-Stages-and-Sleep-Cycles-Explained-Infographic-SleepSherpa

Infographic Content –

Understanding Stages of Sleep and Sleep Cycles

What Are Sleep Stages? – Characteristics of brain and body defined by brainwave frequencies, and eye and muscle movements. Divided into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-REM stages.

What is a Sleep Cycle? – The time required to complete five stages of sleep. Typically, it is about 90-120 minutes in an adult, and 50-60 minutes in infants. Four to five sleep cycles per night.

Different Sleep Stages Explained

Stage 1

  • Takes seconds to minutes to slip into this stage
  • Decreasing heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements
  • Transitional phase, relaxed wakefulness before mind begins to drift off
  • Easy to wake up, characterized by muscle jerks leading to falling sensation
  • Typically Lasts one to seven minutes

Stage 2

  • The sleep stage before you enter deep sleep
  • Lasts 10 to 25 minutes
  • Brain waves become smaller with the occasional burst of rapid waves
  • Body temperature drops, eye movements stop and heart rate lowers further
  • An average adult spends 50% sleep cycle time in Stage 2

Stage 3

  • Deep sleep stage
  • Last around 10 to 40 minutes
  • Heart rate, breathing is at lowest levels
  • Muscles are relaxed; difficult to wake up during this stage
  • Body repair, bone and muscle building, immune strengthening occurs

Stage 4

  • Coma-like sleep
  • 10 to 30 minutes are spent in this stage
  • Rhythmic breathing and heart rate; muscle movements extremely limited
  • Brain produces delta waves
  • Night terrors, sleepwalking, bedwetting can occur in this stage

Stage 5 or REM

  • Final stage of sleep cycle where dreaming occurs
  • Around 20% time spent in this stage, may last for one to five minutes
  • Characterized by rapid side to side movement of eyes behind closed eyelids
  • Breathing, heart rate, blood pressure are near wakeful levels
  • Arms and muscles paralyzed to prevent body from acting out dreams

Factors that Affect Sleep Cycles

  • Age – Infants sleep most while as you age, the requirement decreases gradually
  • Gap between previous sleep session
  • Internal body clock and its relation to day or night
  • Certain medications, exercise, smoking, caffeine, screen time
  • Temperature, light and ambient sounds

Controllable Factors to Improve Quality of Sleep

  • Ensure bedroom is free from strong smells, dimly lit, and temperature set to comfort
  • Get a mattress that suits your sleeping style
  • Avoid screen time, smoking, exercising or consuming too much food
  • Soft and cool sheets on mattress
  • Insulation from noisy environment or use white noise machine

Sources