Do you struggle to wake up in the morning? Or do you know someone who is a heavy sleeper and has a hard time getting up, no matter how loud the alarm is? It turns out that being a heavy or light sleeper has to do with the brain’s activity during the second phase of sleep.
During the second phase of sleep, the brain goes through different stages, with sleep spindles being one of them. Sleep spindles are bursts of activity that come from the thalamus, a region in the middle of the brain. The thalamus helps regulate consciousness and alertness, which makes sense when it comes to sleep.
Studies have found that people with higher rates of sleep spindles in phases two and three are better at sleeping through noises. This means that heavy sleepers have more brain activity than light sleepers, and their sleep spindles are “drowning out” external stimuli from reaching the cortex, making them appear as though they’re in a deeper sleep.
Although sleep spindles are not widely understood, they have been linked to memory consolidation and learning, brain development and plasticity, and even diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and schizophrenia. Women produce more sleep spindles than men, and as we get older, the number of spindles decreases, making us lighter sleepers.
So, how can you wake up a heavy sleeper through the phone? One way is to play increasing sounds throughout the night, as studies have shown that sleepers with higher rates of sleep spindles are better able to sleep through noises. Another way is to try different alarm sounds or vibrations that might be more effective for heavy sleepers.
In the end, whether you’re a heavy or light sleeper may not be entirely in your control, but understanding the science behind it can help you find ways to wake up more easily. So, are you a light sleeper or a heavy sleeper?