Piece of Mind Mondays: Healthy Mind Platter & Sleep Time

Sleep is not only something many of us relish, but it is absolutely vital to our mental health. For this Piece of Mind Monday, Claudia dives deep into Sleep Time and the importance of a healthy, balanced sleep routine for a healthy, balanced mental health state.

young man sleeping peacefully in a large white bed

Ahhh...sweet, blissful sleep. Don’t you agree? When we get a solid 8 hours of uninterrupted night's sleep, life is good. But, let’s be real - how many of us actually get that every night?

And what of the nuances of good sleep hygiene? Just like food, not all mental nutrients are created equal. Sleep accounts for one-third of our mental nutrients for the day. Additionally, not all sleep is the same, just as not all greens are the same: you will not get the same nutrients in iceberg lettuce that you would get in kale. Understanding the particulars of sleep in a short blog is impossible to do, but perhaps I can give you a better grasp of the importance of sleep.

Mental Health Services @ Coastline

A Sleep Primer

Good sleep is a predictor of mental resilience. Sleep is necessary for good health. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is also cyclical. We cycle through distinct stages of sleep about every 90-120 minutes, with a total of 4-6 cycles per night. These cycles are broken down into four stages.

  • Stage 1: This stage is the transition between wakefulness and sleep. Light sleep (cat nap)
  • Stage 2: When you reach stage 2, you are asleep, and the body is relaxed.
  • Stage 3: This stage is called deep sleep or slow-wave sleep. Restorative sleep.
  • Stage 4/REM: Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Dream sleep.

graph showing the breakdown of sleep cycles. there are 5 group of horizontal bars grouped by time periods and the length of the 4 different sleep stages within those groups.

As you can see in the example of the sleep cycles in the graph above, you will note that Stage 3 and REM are significantly longer or shorter depending on the time of night. This gives us a bit more understanding about the nuances of sleep.

  1. If I go to sleep after 2am, I have missed most of the restorative sleep.
  2. If I wake up before 3:30am I have missed most of the REM sleep.
  3. If I take more than 10 minutes to fall asleep or I wake during the night and am awake for more than 10 minutes, I will disturb the balance of my sleep stages.


frustrated young woman in bed, can't sleep, alarm clock reads 3:01am

Why is this important?

To know why this is important, you must understand what happens in each stage of sleep.

Stage 1: Your body prepares to sleep or go back into deeper sleep.

Stage 2: Your heart rate and body temperature drop, which is needed for a healthy cardiovascular system. Metabolism and hormones are also regulated. Memory consolidation begins to happen. Memory consolidation includes our ability to know how to do things without having to think about them, i.e., "everyday" tasks like tying your shoes, typing, driving a car, etc. It also includes being able to recall facts, information, and experiences, i.e., remembering the last words my grandmother ever spoke to me or the facts I studied for my upcoming quiz.

Mental Health Awareness @ Coastline

Stage 3: The body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. The manufacturing of T-cells is greatest during restorative sleep. Memory consolidation continues. Deep sleep hits the “save button” on information.

REM: The brain sorts and filters connections that we have made during the day and keeps those that are useful. It is vital for memory, learning, and brain development (that’s why babies and children experience more REM sleep than adults). REM makes associations with the information we have saved in deep sleep.

Sleep is necessary to memory, learning, physical health, and brain development, among other things.

overhead view of exhausted student asleep at desk on top of notebooks and laptop

How can I improve my sleep hygiene?

If you have real concerns about your sleep and/or are experiencing sleep disturbance, or sleep solidly through the night but do not feel rested in the morning, consider having a sleep study done via your health practitioner. Below are tips that many have found helpful.

  • Have sleep regularity. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning.
  • Have a bedtime routine.
  • Reduce the amount of light your eyes take in as you get closer to bedtime. This has to do with melatonin production. So, consider putting devices away, turn off the TV and dim your lights at least 30 min before bedtime.
  • Lower the temperature in your room. Ideal ambient temperature is around 65 degrees.
  • Only go to bed when you are ready to sleep.
  • If you cannot sleep or can't get back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night, get out of bed and engage in low level activity. When you begin to feel sleepy, go back to bed. We do not want our brains associating our beds with wakefulness.
  • Do not exercise at least two hours before bed. Exercise wakes our bodies.
  • Stop drinking alcohol at least two hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may depress your system and make you feel sleepy, it disrupts your ability to go into restorative sleep.
  • Stop caffeine consumption 12 hours before bedtime. That is not a typo…12 hours! Although you may not have difficulties falling asleep after drinking a warm cup of coffee at night, caffeine suppresses restorative sleep.
  • Reduce or eliminate cannabis consumption. Cannabis suppresses REM.
  • Avoid napping, but if you must, do not nap for more than 20 min. Just as a large snack can ruin your appetite for dinner, a long nap will ruin your nighttime, solid, sleep schedule.


well rested man waking up and turning off his alarm clock

If you forget all these tips or they seem overwhelming, you need only remember this when it comes to sleep: Whatever you do to help children sleep works for adults too, apart from long naps. So, sleep like a baby tonight!

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Claudia Vernon has been a Mental Health Therapist at Coastline since the department’s inception in January of 2019 and became Director of Student Mental Health Services in July of 2023. Claudia earned her B.A. in Social Work from Cal State University Long Beach and an M.A. in Social Work from Barry University, Florida with an emphasis in trauma-informed clinical practice. She has been practicing as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (L.C.S.W.) for approximately 20 years. Claudia has also provided clinical supervision to countless graduate student interns and post graduate associates in the mental health field for over 15 years. To learn more about Claudia and Coastline's other Mental Health Therapists, visit the Student Mental Health Services webpage.

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