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Shallow Sleep -- Why You Sleep 10 Hours and
Are Still Tired
Related Links
Snoring Raises Risk of Stroke by 67%
Stop Snoring-Tips That Work
Can't Sleep-Here's Help
Got Dark Circles? Here's How to Remove Them
Night Cramps--Why Your Legs Cramp At Night
UCLA Center for Sleep Research

March 1, 2008, last updated March 23, 2015
By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Why do I sleep 8-10 hours and I'm still tired? This is a
common complaint. You go to bed, get up 8 to 10 hours
later, and yet you're dragging all through the next day.  
The problem is you may not be getting a sound sleep even
though you are "asleep" for a lot of hours. A lot of people
have what is called interrupted sleep, they are awakened
out of the deep REM ("rapid eye movement") sleep our
bodies need, and brought into shallow sleep. They are the
classic "light sleepers".

Shallow sleep is any sleep which is not sound. It is sleep
which is either interrupted or that does not enter deep REM
sleep. Shallow sleep does not allow you to feel rested. The
interruptions are often caused by snoring. You may be
snoring and not be aware of it. You may be snoring just
enough to make you awake enough to have shallow sleep.  
You should get diagnosed at a sleep clinic because
has been associated with a 67% increased risk of stroke,
which can happen even at a young age.

Normal Sleep Has 5 Stages

To define what shallow sleep is, we first have to know
what sleep is. All of us have an awareness of the difference
between being “awake” and “asleep” but, it may surprise
you to learn that it took many centuries of  exploration
before scientists could definitely understand the difference
between wakefulness and sleep.  

In 2013, a study called “Control of Sleep and Wakefulness”
led by doctors at the VA Boston Healthcare System and
Harvard Medical School could build upon those centuries of
research and state definitively what constitutes “being
awake” and “being asleep”.

You are awake when your brain experiences a particular
kind of brain frequency called “low voltage, fast action”
and your body displays “high muscle tone”. That’s it — fast
brain waves and muscle tone.  You are asleep, deeply
asleep, when you have the same type of brain waves but
you have no muscle tone.

That surprised me. The brain waves during wakefulness
and sleep are the same. Your brain is just as active when
you are asleep as when you are awake.

Other studies have further defined the stages of sleep.

Sleep occurs in 5 recognized stages or levels, 4 shallower
stages and then a deeper stage called REM (rapid eye
movement) sleep.

When you initially become drowsy, you drift from
drowsiness into a state of sleep called non rapid eye
movement (non-REM) sleep. Your heart rate slows, your
body cools down, you drift deeper, you start to dream.  
After a period of time, if your sleep is not interrupted, you
then drift into the deepest level of sleep, REM sleep.

As its name suggests, REM sleep is characterized by tiny
rapid movements of your eyes. What is happening during
deep REM sleep? Contrary to the popular conception of
sleep as an inert inactive state, actually sleep during the
REM phase is active. Your brain is as active as when you
are awake. It is in this REM stage that you complete most
of your dreams, you become sexually aroused, your heart
rate is about as fast as during your waking hours.

We humans need about 8 hours of sleep a night and as
teenagers we need 9 hours. This contrasts with the amount
of sleep other animals need. Horses only need 2 hours of
sleep a night, while tigers sleep for  15.8 hours night,
according to a
report from the National Institutes of Health.

If you are interrupted before you can enter the deepest,
most restful level of sleep, you will wake up tired. This is
shallow sleep.

What causes shallow or light sleep? Shallow sleep has
many causes. Here are some of them.

Snoring.  If you sleep alone or with a partner who can
sleep through anything, you may not know that you snore.
Do you snore loudly?  If you do, you face a higher risk of
dying from stroke and heart disease.

According to a
new study on snoring, those of us who
snore loudly  face a 67% higher risk of death from stroke
and a 34% higher risk of death from heart disease.

Most of us snore at some point in our lives, according to
the study's authors.  40% of all men and 24% of women
snore, according to estimates.  But the ones at risk are
those who snore loudly -- true honkers -- typically have
interruptions in breathing.  If you are a snorer or suspect
you are, try these  
tips to stop snoring.

The reason that snoring can lead to shallow sleep is that
you can literally wake yourself up snoring. And, even if you
do not wake up fully, you can hear yourself snoring, just as
you can hear ambient noise in the room while you are

Temperature of the Room. If you go to sleep in a room
which gets too cold or too hot during the night, you may
toss and turn and, as a result, have shallow sleep.  It's
important to set the temperature of the room about 2
degrees colder than you have it during the day if you sleep
under blankets.

3. Restless Partner. If your partner turns or pulls cover or
kicks, it may bring you into shallow sleep.

Noise. Leaving the TV on is a major cause of shallow
sleep. You may find yourself dreaming of a weird,
disturbing plot because your hearing does not turn off
when you are "asleep".  You simply incorporate the sounds
into your shallow sleep.

Night Cramps. Many people suffer from night cramps,
painful tightness in the legs, usually the calf muscles.
Changing your diet to include more potassium and pre-
sleep routine can help night cramps.


A growing body of evidence suggests that acupuncture can
improve the quality of your sleep. One 2001 study from the
University of South Carolina found that patients with HIV
with sleep problems experienced dramatically improved
sleep quality after receiving 5 weeks of acupuncture

Ambient Light. Leaving the light on in a nearby room or
even using a night light can throw off your sleep. Your eyes
are especially sensitive to light when you are asleep, mainly
because your body uses the absence of light as a trigger to
help you become drowsy. If you sense too much light while
you are asleep, your body will interpret this as "daylight"
and wake you up to start your day -- even if it's stilll 3 in
the morning.

Sleep Center / Can't Sleep-Here's Help / Snoring
Tips / Foods That Stop Snoring /Exercises That Stop

Snoring Increases Risk of Stroke by 67%
Stroke Signs --How to Know When You Are Having a Stroke
Adrenal Fatigue-Why You Wake Up Tired
Can't Sleep-Here's Help

Americans Are Chronically Sleep Deprived-2008 Study

Owning a Cat Cuts Stroke Risk by 40%

My Heart Attack-A Personal Story

Night Cramps-Why Your Legs Cramp At Night

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