How To Become A Heavier Sleeper
February 9, 2023
February 9, 2023
Do you wake up annoyed by everything around you, the sun, the wind and those pesky kids next door?
Now imagine if you could cancel out all these disruptions and sleep blissfully, which is essentially what heavy sleeping is. Heavy sleepers, unlike light sleepers, can sleep throughout the night with little to no sleep disturbance and wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
A common question people with sleep difficulties have is, how to become a heavy sleeper? Before we dive into the answer, let's get a better understanding of what heavy sleeping is.
Everybody goes through varying cycles of sleep, namely heavy and light sleep. They also fall under the light or heavy sleeper category and what makes you a heavy sleeper is the amount of time you spend in a particular sleep cycle.
There are four different stages of sleep that we go through each night. The lightest stage is when the body begins to fall asleep, while the deepest stage is the body repairing and strengthening the brain, muscles and immune system.
Once each sleep cycle is complete, we enter a REM sleep (rapid eye movement) stage, where we start dreaming. All the NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement) that leads to REM sleep takes about 90 minutes, with each REM being slightly longer than the last one. REM sleep is also the lightest sleeping stage one goes through.
On the other hand, the deep sleep stages are known as SWS (slow-wave sleep), commonly found in younger people. This is also the reason why your parents were able to carry you to the bed as a child without you waking. If the same were to happen to your adult self, you would probably wake up at the slightest noise and movements.
When you're a heavy sleeper, you stay asleep through minor disturbances and sudden movements. This means heavy sleepers get better sleep quality when compared to light sleepers.
Not getting proper sleep can also result in you waking up cranky and irritable in the morning, making it challenging to get through the day. Lack of proper sleep stability has even been linked to several long-term health problems like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, obesity and other chronic conditions.
Heavy sleepers are more likely to be productive in their life, be it in workspaces or classrooms.
Heavy sleepers and stages of heavy sleep are two different concepts. On a typical night, an average human goes through 4 stages of sleep, with each stage lasting around 90 minutes. But what exactly happens in each of these stages?
The initial stage is the lightest sleeping stage of all four stages and lasts only a couple of minutes. When you begin to fall asleep, your entire body, including your heartbeat, brain wave activity, eye movements and breathing slows down.
Additionally, your body calms down and muscles relax, excluding the minor twitching sensation. Since you're only in light sleep, it is easier to be woken up at this stage without feeling tired.
The second stage is much slower when compared to the first one but lasts a lot longer. Similar to the former stage, your body, including your heartbeat, brain wave activity and breathing slows down.. Eye movements, on the other hand, come to a halt, and the core of your body begins to cool down. Also, your muscles relax further, which pushes you into a deeper sleep stage.
The third stage is the deep sleep stage that your body goes through. When you enter this slow wave sleep, your body slows down the most and starts to repair itself. Because your body almost completely shuts down, it is much harder to wake a person up from deep sleep.
The fourth stage is where we come across REM sleep. Unlike the previous stage, the final REM stage keeps your brain wave activity functioning as though you're awake, which results in you dreaming during this stage. Due to this, especially when vivid dreams happen, your eye movements become rapid, your heart rate and breathing increase, and your blood pressure tends to rise.
Since your body acts as though it's awake, it can result in you acting out your dreams, mistaking them for reality. To prevent this from happening, your body paralyses the muscles, so you can’t move around during the dream.
Though there is an idea of what heavy and light sleep are, there are still no studies showing why certain people sleep heavy while others don't. As we know, light sleepers can wake up with the slightest amount of disruptions, whereas heavy sleepers need something more stimulating to wake up. This significant difference in stimuli usually happens due to a phenomenon called the arousal threshold.
The arousal threshold suggests how strong a stimulus is needed to wake someone up from sleep. A heavy sleeper has a much higher arousal threshold than a light sleeper. But the arousal threshold of an individual can be affected by several factors, such as:
To further elaborate on the last point, people who experience more stress, hypervigilance and anxiety are prone to waking up easily. Furthermore, people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rarely sleep well and experience sleep disorders. These sleep disorders can be insomnia, narcolepsy, jet lag etc.
Likewise, if you are 60 or above, you may fall under the category of a light sleeper, while a younger person is more likely to be a heavy sleeper.
Several factors can help you become a heavy sleeper and here are a few that can make the process a lot easier.
To be a heavy sleeper, you must stay asleep through any sleep disturbance, including sounds, and this is where a white noise machine comes into play. White noise is every frequency that a human ear can perceive when played in a random order.
When you get this machine, it cancels out any predictable or monotonous noise coming from within or outside your house. This allows you to improve sleep habits since it can mask unexpected sounds that otherwise wake you up. Additionally, it is known to help you get enough sleep and improves sleep quality.
Melatonin is the chemical produced by our brain that allows us to feel sleepy and fall asleep at a particular time. This chemical lets us know when our body needs rest so we can go to bed at the right time.
The human body produces enough melatonin for good sleep quality. However, with many modern interventions, such as blue light from smart devices, your body's natural melatonin levels can prove insufficient and result in poor quality sleep.
To combat this issue, several melatonin supplements have been developed that when used in smaller doses, can improve your overall sleep quality. Many sleep experts recommend using melatonin instead of a sleep medicine to treat disrupted circadian rhythm, delayed sleep phase and symptoms of a sleep disorder. Constant use can result in dependency on the sleep medicine, which is not an issue with melatonin supplements.
Moreover, melatonin in smaller doses can be used without a prescription, but if you need higher doses, consult a doctor without fail.
Do you struggle to get out of bed on cold days? This is because dark and cool environments improve your overall sleep habits. When your body temperature drops, you may wake up in the middle of the night due to excessive sweating.
This is why keeping your bedroom cool before you go to bed is essential to prevent sudden waking. So, make sure you have a comfortable blanket to feel cosy within.
Additionally, bright light can make falling asleep much harder. To prevent this, investing in a good quality eye mask can help, along with blackout curtains. When the room is dark and has little to no light, you won't have any trouble sleeping quickly. This, paired with a cool room, is the recipe for a good night's sleep.
Maintaining a circadian rhythm is essential for a good night's sleep. When you go to bed at different times of the day, it can disrupt the natural rhythm of your body. To avoid this from happening, ensure you develop a consistent bedtime routine and follow it.
Though there is no evidence on what makes someone a light sleeper, some influential factors are poor lifestyle choices, blue light from screens, irregular body temperature or a sleep disorder. Fortunately, these are all things you can control to ensure your sleep quality improves.
Before you try out the above-mentioned steps, keep in mind that fixing your circadian rhythm does not happen overnight. It requires patience, perseverance and consistency until it becomes a habit. So, make sure you dont stay up all night bingeing that new TV show or learning TikTok dances to become a heavy sleeper in no time!