What's the Healthiest Sleep Pattern?

December 13, 2023 · John Gallagher

Sleep Pattern & Quality: A Parallel Relationship

Here’s a fun dinner party fact: the average person moves 13 times, per hour, while sleeping.

If you sleep alongside a partner, you might be particularly aware of how much you move on a given night. While some sleepers regularly roll and reposition themselves each night, others barely budge. This collection of nighttime movements and behaviors contribute to your sleep pattern — and help determine your quality of sleep each night.

What is a Sleep Pattern?

Your sleep pattern includes how you move during sleep, and how those movements contribute to your overall quality of rest. Sleep patterns also include the total number of hours you sleep and how long you spend during each phase of sleep.

When you sleep, your body typically transitions between multiple sleep cycle tiers. These phases — wake, N1, N2, N3, and REM — usher your body to and from deep sleep, which is when your body receives benefits like memory consolidation, mood stabilization, and physical healing.

Here’s more context on each phase of sleep:

  • Wake: The period of alert wakefulness you experience during the day.
  • N1: The active transition between wakefulness and initial sleep.
  • N2: The onset of sleep, typically when your heart rate slows and your body temperature drops.
  • N3: The deepest sleep phase that instigates bodily recovery.
  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement): The phase of sleep necessary for cognitive function, when you’re most likely to dream.

Your sleep patterns are the reason why you might spend a certain amount of time in one phase or another. The right sleep patterns allow you to spend more time in deep sleep, maximizing health benefits. However, disrupted sleep patterns are sometimes the reason why you wake up groggy despite feeling like you got a full night of rest.

Why Do My Sleep Patterns Matter?

Your sleep patterns play an important role in how you feel the next day. However, their physical impact goes far beyond your morning mood. Sleep patterns play a fundamental role in determining other aspects of your health — from your mental health to your productivity.

For example, continuous disruptions in your sleep patterns can quickly lead to mood disorders. These same sleep issues can also worsen existing sleep conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome.

Here’s the good news: there are several things you can do to improve your sleep patterns. Some of these factors are under your control, while others are byproducts of processes like aging and physical maturity.

Here are some of the strongest factors that influence your sleep patterns:

  • Age: Infants and adults understandably have separate sleep requirements. For example, adults should aim for 7–9 hours of sleep per night, while babies require their own sleep schedule.
  • Lifestyle: your stress levels, diet, daily exercise regimen, and other lifestyle priorities also have a strong say in determining your sleep patterns.
  • Family responsibilities: New parents, for example, often face challenges in regulating their sleep patterns because of their responsibilities in caring for young family members.
  • Concurrent health conditions: Sleep disorders, and health conditions like diabetes or elevated blood pressure, can also affect your sleep frequency and longevity.
  • Blue light exposure: Blue light delays the onset of sleep by suppressing melatonin production. This is particularly damaging in the 60 minutes before you plan on falling asleep.
  • Medications: Certain medications like antidepressants and corticosteroids can affect your body’s natural sleep patterns.

Unlike nighttime behaviors or your pre-sleep routine, your sleep patterns aren’t always changeable. Movements or behaviors while you sleep are simply a part of who you are. However, you can give your body the best chance for a restful night’s sleep by encouraging a natural sleep cycle. That means avoiding stimulants like alcohol and caffeine, prioritizing sleep hygiene, and establishing a safe sleep environment.

Circadian Rhythms: Connecting with Your Healthiest Sleep

For many people, sleep quality can be even more important than sleep quantity. Each night, you need a sufficient amount of uninterrupted sleep in order to cycle through each sleep stage. If your sleep is frequently interrupted, or you don’t consistently reach deeper sleep stages, you’ll likely wake unrefreshed no matter how many hours you spend in bed.

Fortunately, your body has a natural clock that regulates your sleep and wake episodes. This “clock” is called your circadian rhythm, and is responsible for sustaining sleep and wakefulness in cycles of 24 hours. When you’re correctly in sync with your body’s circadian rhythm, you’ll often notice that you feel appropriately awake during the day. You’ll also notice that you get tired at the right time, fall asleep, and wake up in the morning.

Disrupting your circadian rhythm can quickly disrupt your sleep cycle, even if it’s only for a day or two. Jet lag, study sessions, late social events, shift work, and other events can compromise sleep patterns — and the important processes like hunger and hormone production that they regulate.

What’s the Best Sleep Pattern for Me?

You might be surprised to learn that several different types of sleep patterns can create effective rest. While one is most common, others can still help you restore energy levels and fulfill sleep-dependent bodily functions.

When it comes to sleep patterns, here are your body’s options:

  • Monophasic sleep: One, single period of sleep before your body triggers wakefulness in the morning.
  • Biphasic sleep: Two separate periods of sleep that together combine to offer important sleep benefits. Traditionally, biphasic sleepers wake up in the middle of the night, complete simple tasks like prayer or housework, and then back asleep until morning. Other biphasic sleepers simply become accustomed to an afternoon nap.
  • Polyphasic sleep: Sleep broken into several short rest periods throughout the day and night. Many people who practice polyphasic sleep do so out of necessity, perhaps because of work or other lifestyle decisions.

It’s important to note that the body often prefers monophasic sleep as a single period of time between evening and morning. While some people find biphasic or polyphasic sleep effective, particularly for short periods of time, it’s not often successful in the long run. For best health benefits, many sleep specialists and doctors recommend adhering to a monophasic sleep schedule.

Learn to track your sleep schedule to determine the sleep pattern that your body prefers.

How Can I Embrace Healthier Sleep?

It’s not enough to identify the healthiest sleep pattern for you. Instead, make sleep a nightly priority and allow your body to rest, relax, and recharge before the next day arrives.

Here are a few ways you can embrace healthier sleep, no matter your body’s preferred sleep pattern:

  • Achieve a consistent sleep schedule: Brush your teeth, set morning alarms, turn off your phone, and climb into bed at the same times each day for a consistent routine.
  • Relax before bed: Give your brain time to slow down and transition from daytime activity.
  • Darken the room: Close curtains, put away any distractions, and lower the lights appropriately to increase your body’s melatonin production as sleep approaches.
  • Limit bedtime activities: Reserve your bed for sleep and intimacy. Feel free to perform other activities before bed, but make sure to do so in another location. Even if that means answering an email in the bathroom, preserving your bed for rest helps your brain separate sleep from other behaviors.
  • Use the right sleep materials: Find pillows, blankets, and sleep accessories that give your body the best chance to fall asleep and stay asleep.

One of the most important ingredients in the recipe for healthy sleep is your mattress. The right mattress helps support your limbs, protect your neck, and cradle your head to minimize motion while you sleep.

If you’re not confident that your mattress is your biggest advocate for better sleep, Mattress Warehouse can help. You’re the reason we created the bedMATCH sleep diagnostic program — a system that considers your body type and sleep preferences to identify mattress options proven to deliver better rest. All you need to do is visit your local Mattress Warehouse and participate in a five-minute bedMATCH evaluation, performed by our plush mattress technology.

Don't worry if you can’t visit a Mattress Warehouse near you. Take the bedMATCH online quiz  to identify mattress options made for sleepers like you. No matter your height, weight, preferred sleep position, sleep pattern, or budget, we’ll pair you with mattress options that deliver the rest you know you deserve.