We’ve offered a lot of information about how to tell when you need a new mattress. One of the key indicators is whether you feel well-rested in the morning and throughout your day. There is, however, one easy way to make sure your sleep cycle isn’t the thing that’s stealing your thunder.

Complete the cycle.

Did you know that sleep happens in cycles? That’s why there are some moments when you wake up naturally and others where you have to be yanked forcibly from your slumber. The typical sleep cycle includes 4 stages of Non-REM sleep before a short period of REM sleep. REM actually makes up only about 25% of the time you spend sleeping. Each stage in the cycle plays a different function that benefits your body and mind. The sleep cycle can be interrupted during certain stages and you’ll wake up feeling revived. But if you get jolted from your sleep at the wrong moment, your sleep could work against you.

Non-REM Stage 1 – This is when you’re falling asleep. Your muscles might twitch and you’re very easy to wake up while you’re in this first stage of sleep. Stage one “sets the stage” for restful, revitalizing sleep to occur. If you take a nap where you only reach this stage of sleep, or if you’re stuck here all night, you’ll probably feel like you haven’t gotten any sleep at all.

Non-REM Stage 2 – Stage 2 is light sleep, the stage that will provide you with some rest even if you just take a short nap. This type of sleep makes up the biggest part of the time you spend sleeping. As you move through the night, this stage gets longer and the other non-REM stages get shorter. Your muscles start to relax to prepare your body for deeper sleep.

Non-REM Stages 3 & 4 – The last two stages of Non-REM sleep are quite similar to each other. These are called slow-wave sleep because your brain waves start to show periods of slower movement. Stage 3 is the period when your brain waves are slow less than half the time, and you’ve made it to Stage 4 when your brain waves are slowed for more than half the time.

REM Sleep – This is what we’re all going for when we lay down our heads at night. REM sleep is a period when your body is paralyzed but your mind is extremely active. In fact, research suggests that REM sleep has a bigger impact on our creative processes than any other state – asleep or awake! You go into REM sleep four or five times each night at the end of your sleep cycle. When the cycle restarts, you might even wake up. The more times you progress through the cycle in a night, the longer your periods of REM sleep become. This important sleeping time looks to be the time when information is processed and new connections are made in the brain. The notion of “sleeping on” an idea or problem might be exactly what you need if you’ve been struggling to make a decision.

What’s it all mean?

It’s pretty important in general to understand what’s happening when you sleep. Getting good sleep is one of the most valuable things we can do for our minds and bodies, and for a lot of people it’s not too hard to improve. If you’ve been lagging throughout the day and think you need a new mattress, then it’s a really good time to be especially aware of your sleep cycles. Sleep when you’re tired, stay awake when you’re not, and try to avoid alarm clocks and sleep schedules that tear you out of the deeper stages of sleep before they’re complete. With your sleep cycle in check, you can be confident about the impact your mattress is making on your life. When you finally choose a new one, you’ll be better able to get great sleep and make sure your new mattress is right for you.

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