Sleep: Quality over Quantity

You wake up, bleary-eyed. Straining, you stretch out your arm and slam down on your alarm clock’s snooze button, providing you with a brief respite before the alarm’s insistent blares return. Eventually, the alarm blares finally force you away from your cocoon of sleep, and you stumble awake, lethargically beginning to preparing for the day.

For many MVHS students, this is a common ritual during the weekdays, a way of life—and inevitable. However, an app called Sleep Cycle could revitalize this idea. Although only students themselves can control the amount of sleep they receive, this app can track their sleep throughout the night, wake them up at their lightest sleep, and offer insight into their sleeping patterns and how well they have slept.

“Sleep Cycle uses sound recognition [to sense movement] and see how deep into sleep you are,” sophomore Michelle Tang, a user of this app, says. “You set a time frame, and the app will wake you up [in that time period] at a time where you are the least groggy and most awake.”

Additionally, according to Sleep Cycle’s official website, this app also provides a visual aid to portray how well the user has slept throughout the night and allows the person to set variables that have affected him or her during that day; the user is later able to witness the effects it has on his or her sleep first-hand.

Mechanics of Sleep

However, to understand this app more, one must first understand the mechanics of sleep, which Morton, who writes for the website End Sleep Deprivation provides. Our sleep is broken into five stages, which was confirmed by a 1937 study by Alfred Lee Loom using sound waves. This can be broken up into non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement sleep (REM). REM sleep, which occurs when you have nightmares or vivid dreams, contains only one phase, while NREM sleep consists of stages one, two, three and four.

Right when we fall asleep, we enter stage one for a few minutes and soon progress into stage two, where we truly begin to lose consciousness. When we finally reach deep sleep, we are entering stages three and four, in which we are entirely cut off from the world and outer stimuli; being awakened from stage three or four sleep gives us that groggy feeling many despise.

However, we don’t stay in deep sleep for the remainder of our rest. Instead, we return to shallower sleep, and then REM sleep, which sometimes provides us with dreams. The remainder of our sleep is alternated with REM and NREM sleep, which switches between stages two, three and four. Occasionally, we peak at stage one sleep, explaining those instances in which we wake up in the middle of the night. A regular person repeats the cycle from REM to NREM sleep and back to REM sleep around four to six times throughout the night, Mastin writes for the website How Sleep Works.

So What Does This All Mean?

The Sleep Cycle app uses the concept of sleep cycles to predict when you will be at your lightest sleep. Additionally, it contains a visual aid showing the varying depths of sleep throughout the night, and provides an overall assessment on how well the person has slept the previous night. For example, four to six steady dips from stage two and REM sleep to stage four sleep is a sign of healthy sleep, while rapid dips from deep sleep to wakefulness hint at a fitful, restless sleep.

Users can input variables in the app and see the effects of the night’s sleep. For example, using technology and being near bright light soon before sleeping affects sleeping negatively, along with stress, medication, alcohol and certain environments, Greg Blome writes for his website My Sleep Cycle Experiment. This allows the user to experiment with variables and different environments, and see the results first-hand.

Although Sleep Cycle is a big step and achievement through the field of sleep, it is also simply a useful, handy tool for everyday people to experiment with.

“I mainly use it as an alarm so I don’t feel groggy every day,” Tang said. “[However,] if you’re interested in your sleep, you can use the data from the app, and learn more about how well you slept yesterday, last week or even last month.”

Using this app, one can easily experiment with his or her surroundings to find the optimal conditions to sleep. In fact, efficient sleep can be just as important as enough sleep, and as many people know, sleep is an integral part of our health. However, many teenagers still lack a sufficient amount of this vital component, as MVHS sophomore Meghna Rajan notices. “I don’t think teenagers get enough sleep, because I often hear stories of people pulling all-nighters and staying up all night studying for tests.”

And, as nearly every MVHS student has experienced from those sleepless nights, without sleep, we become bleary, unproductive zombies that struggle with even the most menial tasks. Therefore, Rajan suggests, “Teenagers should balance their everyday activities with the amount of sleep they get, [so they can be] productive and feel fresh every day.” Additionally, besides getting enough sleep, students should also strive to sleep efficiently, and Sleep Cycle may be a guiding light in this idea.