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Sleeper Types: Heavy Sleepers

by BetterSleep
May 18 2022 • 8 min read

We all know that sleep is important, but what kind of sleeper are you? Do you find that you can sleep through anything, or do you need complete silence and darkness to get your ZZZs?

There are two types of sleepers: light sleepers and heavy sleepers. Depending on which type you are, there are different things you can do to improve your sleep quality.

So which one are you? Keep reading to find out!

Different Stages of Sleep

To understand the difference between heavy and light sleep, it is first necessary to understand the sleep stages.

Sleep can be divided into two main types. These are REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-REM), which are further divided into three stages. Here’s how the different sleep stages work:

Stage 1 (NREM sleep 1)

Stage 1 sleep is the beginning stage of sleep. It is very brief and occurs when you are between a state of consciousness and sleep. Breathing, heart rate, brain wave activity, and eye movement will slow down while your muscles relax during this stage.

While this stage lasts for only a few minutes, it is important as it helps prepare your body for deeper stages of sleep.

Stage 2 (NREM sleep 2)

Stage 2 sleep is a deeper sleep in which our breathing, heart rate, and brain wave activities slow down even further. Our muscles also relax completely, and we can no longer be aroused easily. This stage usually lasts for 30 to 60 minutes.

Stage 3 (NREM sleep 3)

NREM sleep 3, the slow wave sleep, is the stage during which our bodies heal and regenerate. This stage is characterized by slow brain waves and a deep level of relaxation. Our breathing and heart rate reach their lowest point during this stage, and we are less likely to be awakened by outside stimuli.

Although the first cycle of stage 3 sleep lasts 45 to 90 minutes, subsequent cycles become shorter. However, young people who are still developing spend a longer time in the last NREM stage, indicating the importance of this stage of sleep for growth and development.

Stage 4 (REM sleep)

REM sleep is stage 4 of sleep, during which most dreams occur. Your eyes move quickly from side to side and your brain wave activity increases, mimicking similar patterns as when you’re awake.

This stage typically lasts 10 minutes and only accounts for 25 percent of your slumber. REM sleep is important for dreaming, but it is not the most vital phase of sleep.

How to Know if You’re a Heavy Sleeper

A heavy sleeper cannot be woken up easily when asleep, even when there are significant changes in their sleeping environment.

Heavy sleepers may sleep through stimuli such as someone touching them lightly or even shaking them! They’ll also sleep through sun rays peeking through their windows or disruptive sounds erupting from nearby sources.

Even if you’re a deep sleeper, you won’t spend all your time asleep in the deep sleeping stage. You’ll still go through the different stages of sleep,

Moreover, even deep sleepers will be easier to wake if they’re in light or REM sleep stages. However, it’s much more difficult to wake them up once they reach deep sleep.

Advantages of Heavy Sleepers

1. They tend to be more rested and have more energy during the day. They do not wake up as easily and spend more time in a deeply restful state. As a result, they feel more rested and have more energy during the day.

2. They are less likely to be disturbed by outside noise or light. They can sleep even through loud noises, allowing them to have a good night’s sleep.

3. They tend to stay asleep for longer periods. The extended time spent in deep rest prevents them from waking up feeling groggy or disoriented like some lighter sleepers.

4. An interesting finding about heavy sleepers is that they have more sleep spindles than light sleepers. Researchers believe that the thalamus of heavy sleepers works harder in blocking outside noise from disturbing the sleeper.

5. Heavy sleepers generally don’t need as much sleep as lighter sleepers, so they can often get by on less total sleep time each night.

Drawbacks of Being a Heavy Sleeper

Some people can fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, while others may toss and turn for hours before finally drifting off. Being a heavy sleeper can have drawbacks for those who fall into the latter category.

One of the most obvious downsides is that it can be difficult to wake up in the morning. Heavy sleepers often sleep through their alarm clocks, making them late for work or school.

Additionally, heavy sleepers may find it hard to take advantage of the early morning hours.

How to Know if You’re a Light Sleeper?

Light sleepers find falling asleep difficult and staying asleep even harder. People who sleep lightly may wake when they feel a disturbance in the sleep environment. The disturbance may be outside noise, partners changing positions, or lighting in the hallways.

Some light sleepers may also suffer from a certain type of sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. However, there are certain advantages to being a light sleeper.

Advantages of being a light sleeper

1. Light sleepers may not always enjoy a full night’s sleep, but their heightened awareness can be beneficial in many ways. For example, they are more alert and responsive, which makes them more likely to notice if something is out of place in their surroundings.

2. If you’re a light sleeper, you may have an easier time waking up in the morning than deep sleepers. People who wake up earlier are often more productive during the day since they typically have more hours of wakefulness.

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Why Am I Such a Heavy Sleeper?

The level at which you can sleep depends on your arousal threshold, a term doctors use to describe how much stimulus someone needs to wake up. People with a high arousal threshold need lots of stimuli to rise from their sleep, making them deep sleepers.

However, scientists still haven’t figured out why some people have a higher arousal threshold than others. While it seems to be influenced by someone’s genetics, other factors in someone’s lifestyle can make their sleep heavier, including but not limited to:

  • Certain medications
  • Not getting enough sleep (for example, anxiety keeping you awake the night before)
  • Erratic sleep schedule
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea

If being a heavy sleeper isn’t disrupting your health and lifestyle, there’s likely nothing to worry about.

What are Sleep Spindles

High-frequency sleep spindles are bursts of electrical activity that occur during deep sleep. They are involved in memory consolidation and are associated with better sleep. These brainwave activities are generated in the brainstem and thalamus and frequently occur during stage 2 sleep.

Benefits of Sleep Spindles

Sleep spindles are beneficial because they help with sensory processing. They allow the brain to absorb information while sleeping and consolidate it into memories.

These neural activities also play a role in memory consolidation, transferring short-term memories into long-term memories. Memory consolidation is essential for remembering facts and experiences from our past.

Sleep spindles also help with cognitive function. They improve our ability to focus and maintain attention, which is essential for completing tasks and being productive during the day.

How to Improve Your Sleep Regardless if You’re a Light or Heavy Sleeper

It’s easy to think that deep sleepers already get good sleep quality. But that’s not necessarily true! Sleeping heavily — and struggling to wake up in the morning — may be caused by you not getting enough quality sleep. Here’s how you can improve your sleep, even if you’re a heavy sleeper:

  • Pick the right bedtime drinks and snacks: Avoid sugary foods or caffeinated drinks before you sleep, so your body doesn’t become restless.
  • Wind down before bed: If it takes you an hour or more to fall asleep, you may not get enough sleep each night. Try a sleeping meditation or a bedtime story to drift to sleep faster and make the most of every hour you have.
  • Change your alarm schedule: If your alarm rings during your deep sleep cycle, it won’t be easy to wake up. Try different alarm schedules to see what works best for you. Even though it sounds counterintuitive, waking up earlier could make you feel less tired!
  • Take a sleep study: If you’re worried your deep sleep may be linked to other sleeping issues, don’t hesitate to consult a medical professional for an evaluation.
  • Use relaxation methods: Relaxation methods are a great way to reduce anxiety and tension. Yoga is also good for relieving anxiety. It is easy to integrate relaxation techniques into bedtime routines. When you are anxious or unable to concentrate, consult an expert in your field.
  • Practice good sleepy hygiene: Good sleep hygiene describes ten habits to help you have an energized and productive day. Incorporating these routines into your routine can improve your sleep quality.
  • Use white noise: Listen to a white noise playlist and turn off the fan when waking up to waking sounds. This quiet hum helps reduce other noises, making you sleep faster.

Factors That Determine Whether You Are a Deep Sleeper or a Light Sleeper

Whether you are a deep or light sleeper depends on many factors. Below are nine factors that may affect how deeply you sleep so that you can better understand why you may not get the restful sleep you need.

1. Age: Younger people tend to be light sleepers, while older people may have more difficulty achieving deep sleep.

2. Stress Levels: High-stress levels can lead to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, so those with higher stress levels are usually light sleepers.

3. Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant and can affect sleep quality, so those who consume large amounts of caffeine may be light sleepers.

4. Alcohol: While alcohol can initially make people sleepy, it prevents them from entering deep sleep phases and can lead to poor-quality sleep overall. As a result, those who drink heavily are usually light sleepers.

5. Exercise: Regular exercise has been linked to deeper and more restful sleep, so those who exercise regularly tend to be deep sleepers.

6. Bedtime Routine: Developing a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath and reading, can help people to relax and fall asleep easier, ultimately leading to deeper sleep. Those who engage in regular bedtime routines tend to be deep sleepers.

7. Sleep Environment: The environment in which you’re sleeping can impact the quality of your sleep, so it’s important to ensure that it is comfortable and conducive to restful sleep. People with ideal sleeping environments are more likely to be deep sleepers.

8. Diet: Eating sugary or fatty foods late at night can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythms and prevent you from achieving deep sleep. Eating a balanced diet full of healthy foods and avoiding late-night snacking can help you to sleep better and be more likely to be a deep sleeper.

9. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia, can prevent people from achieving a restful and deep sleep. Those who suffer from these conditions usually struggle to become deep sleepers.

How Can the BetterSleep App Help People Sleep Better?

It can be tough to fall asleep at night, especially if you have trouble shutting down your mind.

Counting sheep is a thing of the past. If you’re looking for a better way to fall asleep faster, check out the BetterSleep App.

With its bedtime stories and guided meditations, this app has something for everyone. We’ve got you covered whether you’re a kid or adult, beginner or expert.

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