How to Improve Sleep Quality!

How to Improve Sleep Quality!

Written by: Dr. Kathy Dang, ND, MSTOM

Summer is in full-swing —days are so long, nights are short.   Winding down in the evening can get pushed later and later, because who can really sleep when it’s still light out?

What is sleep?

Once cozy in bed, following a naturopathic bed routine (see below), eyes are closed and breathing slows….and sleep approaches…

When you are asleep, you go through distinct stages of sleep.
There are four stages that cycle and repeat over and over throughout the night.
Each cycle taking two hours to complete in an adult.

The first three stages are considered non-REM (NREM) sleep and fourth stage, REM.

Stage 1:  Eyes are closed, it’s easy to wake up and claim you were not asleep. 

  • Some people experience muscle twitching or contractions with a sensation of falling.  (lasts 5-10 minutes)

Stage 2:  Light sleep is happening, heart rate slows and body temperature drops

Stage 3:  Deep sleep (Delta-wave sleep)

  • Waking during this time will make you feel drowsy and disoriented.
  • There use to be a 4th stage of deep sleep, but recently the sleep profession in US combined stages 3 and 4.2
  • This is where bedwetting, night terrors, and sleep walking occurs in some children.2
  • During this deep stage of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system.3

Stage 4:  REM sleep

  • REM stands for rapid-eye movement, characterized by yes, as the name has it, rapid movement of the eyes (common in mammalians), low muscle tone throughout the body, and vivid dreams.
  • Most people, when waking during this stage, can remember their dreams.
  • During first cycle of sleep at night, REM can last 10 minutes.  As sleep progresses, REM sleep can last up to an hour.
  • Most adults spend 20% of their sleep in REM stage.  Babies can spend up to 50% of their sleep in this stage.3
  • As we get older, the time spent in REM sleep lessens.

How do I get a good night’s rest?

You need to adopt a Naturopathic Bed Routine! Here are some simple tricks on improving your sleep hygiene:

  • Dim all lights by 9PM or earlier. Turn off most of the lights in the house, keeping on a couple of lamps, for low lighting. If using the computer, dim the screen light to lowest the light setting as possible. In the brain, the pineal gland secretes melatonin based on perceived light and darkness.  Before the advent of electricity, alarm clocks, smart phones, etc… the sun was the natural source of sleeping and waking, where in darkness, the pineal gland responds by secreting melatonin.
    Melatonin prepares the body for good sleep —lowers body temperature, lowers cortisol, makes you sleepy.
  • Take your last sip of water.  Drinking too much before bed guarantees you’ll be up to use the washroom frequently.
  • Keep the room temperature relatively cool, as much possible.
  • Your bedroom needs to be pitch black. If not, consider black-out curtains.  I use a night-time eye mask to block out any light, especially the early morning sunrises.
  • Sleep nude or with very light clothing.
  • SLEEP AND SEX.  That’s what the bedroom is for.  All other activities, such as computer work, studies, etc…should be done elsewhere. 
  • Consider the noise level from your bedroom.  Light sleeper? disturbed by noise?
    A sound machine with white noise to cancel out sounds at night is very helpful.  I like Ecotones Sound Sleep Machine  or  Nature Sounds app on my iPhone.
  • An hour sleep before midnight is worth two after!

The earlier in the night you fall asleep, more time spent in non-REM sleep. NREM stage is where the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. The later you sleep in, spends more time is spent in REM sleep.  Dreams are more easily recalled.

Someone who sleeps from 9 PM to 5 AM (8 hours total) will have a different overall composition of sleep—biased towards more non-REM—than someone who sleeps from 3 AM to 11 AM (also 8 hours total), who is likely to experience more REM.2

If you’re following the naturopathic bed routine, and quality of sleep is not yet improved, make an appointment for a Naturopathic consultation to help target and improve your sleep needs.  There are many natural ways, other than prescriptive sedatives and hypnotics, to improve sleep quality. We can be reached at 604-235-8068 or by email at info@yaletownnaturopathic.com.


  1. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/847220
  2. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/walker-sleep.html
  3. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-101
  4. http://www.sleepdex.org/stages.htm
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_eye_movement_sleep
  6. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jir/2013/801341/
  7. http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/sleep-problems/faqs-about-sleep-problems/how-much-sleep
  8. http://www.circadin.com/doctors-section/role-of-melatonin-in-sleep/

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