Sleep can be elusive, but it keeps our bodies healthy. There are five stages of sleep that support the maintenance of body functions such as mental activity, immune response and hormone regulation.

Stages 1 through 4 are non-Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, when brain activity slows and your sleep gets deeper. The fifth stage, REM sleep, is when the brain is active. You cycle through the stages multiple times so each one has enough time in the spotlight to play its role in your total wellness.

Your brain’s ability to cycle through all five stages depends on the amount and quality of sleep you get.

The minimum recommended daily amount of sleep varies based on age — newborns typically need 16 hours, preschool-aged children need 11 hours, school-aged children need 10 hours, teenagers need 9 hours and adults need 7 hours.

The quality of this sleep also matters because of the restfulness that comes with deep sleep. If you are not sleeping enough to reach this stage, or you sleep the recommended number of hours and your sleep is interrupted, you probably still feel tired during the day.

Since sleep deprivation can lead to problems such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and stroke, it’s in your best interest to get the quality sleep you need. Catch the Z’s you need by:

    • Getting into a routine.

      Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, as well as cutting naps off after 3 p.m. so you aren’t restless at bedtime and exhausted in the morning. Your body will appreciate the consistency!

    • Being mindful of what you put in your body.

      Diet matters — avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day and don’t eat heavy meals at night. It’s best to not use nicotine at all.

    • Unwinding before bed.

      Cool your bedroom down and relax with a book or some music before bedtime. Limit use of bright lights, noises and electronics as much as possible.

    • Taking good care of your body during the day.

      Choose an exercise that you enjoy enough to do regularly (but not too close to bedtime) and spend some time outside so your body can get exposure to natural light.

    • Not lying awake for hours.

      If you’re tossing and turning for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity until you feel tired enough to sleep.

If you have ongoing issues with going to sleep or staying asleep, you might have a sleep disorder. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss these issues. An over-the-counter or prescription sleep aid could help improve your sleep. Another alternative is a sleep study, where physicians monitor your sleep to determine the right treatment.

Content by Lockton Dunning Benefits with info from