Sleep is one of those things that we take for granted. Nevertheless, there are so many things to know about having a good sleep that we usually don’t pay much attention to. For example, do you know what the stages of the sleep cycle are? How many of them? How are they important to us? Let’s find out!
How complicated can it be? Not that much. It won’t require you to have a Ph.D. in physiology or neurology. Master is enough. Just kidding. Let’s get down to it.
Knowledge is power. Knowing more about sleep will help you improve your sleep quality. There are certain points that we want to mention in this article.
We hear phrases like the ‘stages of sleep’ or the ‘sleep cycle,’ but we often don’t know what they mean.
So, in this article, we’ll look into what precisely these phrases mean, as well as other questions people ask and how to address them.
The things you are going to learn about:
- What are the 5 stages of the sleep cycle?
- What is a (good) sleep cycle?
- How long is a sleep cycle?
- Which part of sleep is the most important?
- How do I get more REM sleep?
- What stage of sleep is the hardest to awaken?
- What stage of sleep do you sleep talk?
- Does melatonin help with REM sleep?
- Sleep includes five stages: wake, light to deep NREM sleep, and REM sleep with dreaming.
- Deep NREM sleep is essential for restoration, REM for memory and mood.
- Quality sleep needs multiple full cycles, each lasting 90-120 minutes.
- Consistent sleep schedule, cool dark room, and avoiding stimulants improve REM sleep.
- Sleep apps can track patterns; melatonin may enhance REM sleep quality.
- Holistic sleep practices promote better health and overall well-being.
What Are the Five Stages of the Sleep Cycle?
As observed by scientists, the five stages of the sleep cycle are based on how the brain behaves during sleep.
The five stages are divided into two categories: REM sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep. The first four stages are non-REM sleep, and stage five is known as the REM cycle and is the stage associated with dreaming.
As the division suggests, Stage Five is the most different from the others.
|Type of Sleep
|The period just before or as we fall asleep, transitioning from wakefulness to sleep
|Lightest sleep period, easy to wake from, often disturbed by slight noises
|Deeper sleep, harder to wake from compared to Stage 1
|Deepest NREM sleep, hard to awaken from, period of restorative sleep
|Associated with dreaming, rapid eye movement, deepest and most restorative sleep stage
This initial stage encompasses the period just before or as we fall asleep. It’s characterized by transitioning from wakefulness to sleep, where we become drowsy. The environment plays a crucial role in this phase – it should be relaxing and calming to facilitate the transition into sleep.
Also, understanding your body’s ideal sleep time can significantly enhance the ease of falling asleep. Check out when is your best time to sleep. After this initial phase, we enter the non-REM sleep stages, which are divided into several stages.
These NREM sleep stages are structured so that each progressively leads to deeper levels of sleep, with NREM Stage 1 being the lightest and Stage 3 being the deepest. As we move from one stage of NREM sleep to the next, the body undergoes more significant physiological changes, such as slower breathing, reduced heart rate, and decreased brain activity, facilitating the repair of tissues, muscle building, and immune system strengthening.
Stage 1 (the second phase) is the lightest sleep period and is relatively short. It is straightforward to wake up from this NREM sleep stage, often known as ‘light sleep.’ Any slightest sound can wake you up. How about protecting this stage by using earbuds and their alternatives while sleeping?
Stage 2 sleep is deeper and hard to wake from. During this stage, brain activity begins to slow down, and the body starts to relax more deeply, preparing for deeper stages of sleep. This stage is critical for cognitive restoration and memory consolidation. It’s a transitional phase where the body reduces its temperature and heart rate, setting the stage for the deep sleep that follows.
Stage 3 sleep is the deepest and most difficult to awaken from. You might experience impairment for up to an hour if you wake during the n3 sleep stage. These stages are like airplane mode on your mobile device. The user you have dialed is not available at the moment. Please try again later.
REM Sleep is the stage associated with dreaming and is physiologically the most different. Rapid Eye Movement (where the name comes from) and muscles of the diaphragm, the body is relaxed, and dreaming takes place. Become a jellyfish, just chilling, sleeping; you are in the outer space. Your heart rate slows down, which is when you get the most restorative sleep.
These are the five stages: Wake, Stage 1 (Light sleep), Stage 2, Stage 3 (Deep Sleep), and REM sleep. With these apps, you can track your sleep cycles and get a detailed report about your sleep patterns and sleep habits.
What Is a (Good) Sleep Cycle?
During sleep, the body goes through different stages multiple times. Usually between 4-6 times. The trick is that each cycle has a different proportion of time asleep in each stage.
For example, as the cycles progress, the stages get longer, and you begin to spend more sleep time in the REM phase and less time in the other four stages.
Stage 1 usually lasts 1-5 minutes, making up around 5% of the total cycle. Stage 2 increases with each cycle and eventually accounts for 50% of total sleep.
But the most significant change comes from REM sleep, with the initial cycle having only 10 minutes and the final cycle lasting up to an hour.
This can get a bit more technical, and it is fascinating. However, the important takeaway is understanding the idea that you go through stages of the sleep cycle.
It’s a good idea to avoid interrupting your sleep throughout the night so that your body and mind can cycle naturally through sleep. Now you know more about each cycle, pay attention to the information you’ve got here.
How Long Is a Sleep Cycle?
Each cycle lasts, on average, for 90 minutes, but they are still not the same. Some cycles may be up to 2 hours, others just over an hour.
Further, during the night, your body usually cycles through sleep 4-6 times a night. For adults, that means 6-9 hours of sleep a night.
So, it’s essential to plan a good chunk of time for your sleep since you want to ensure you let your body take part in each of the sleep cycle stages.
Which Part of Sleep Is the Most Important?
While all five sleep cycle stages are essential (and your body will go through all of them), Stage 4, or deep sleep, is typically the most important. It is where healing and repairing take place.
Deep sleep lets you feel rested and healthy in the morning and keeps you from becoming a zombie.
But the fact that one stage is more important than another one does not make others useless. You should let your body have enough time to go through each of them.
For example, the average adult gets just 1-2 hours of Deep Sleep for every 8 hours of total sleep time.
You might ask: How long does falling into a deep sleep take? Well, this varies depending on age and other individual characteristics of what you’ve done before going to bed or in bed.
Typically, for the first stage, you will probably enter deep sleep in 40-60 minutes, but it varies and depends on your cycle.
As your cycle progresses, you spend less time in deep sleep and more in Stage 2 and REM sleep. Further, you will spend more time in a light sleep once you get older.
If you want to understand and monitor your sleep stages, download ShutEye and see how to improve your sleep.
How Do I Get More REM Sleep?
If you want to get the most out of REM sleep, try to follow at least some of the following recommendations to improve your sleep hygiene:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time, even on weekends or holidays. It will automatically create an inner schedule for your body. Remember, for the body, it is not easy to adjust quickly to a new schedule. Click here to get some tips for better sleep.
- Don’t use electronics and distractions a few hours before bed.
Shut off your TV, tablet, computer, and smartphone. At least keep these devices out of emitting light. Otherwise, it will stimulate your brain, suppress the production of melatonin (which encourages REM sleep), and interfere with your body’s internal schedule.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
Use heavy curtains or shades to block the light from windows. Cover any electronic displays, like TV or computer, so the light does not glow in the room. You can also use a sleep mask to cover your eyes and create a dark space that will help you sleep. If you have difficulty sleeping due to loud noises outside your window or a loud sleep partner, consider investing in good earplugs or a noise machine. Check out what Olympic Athletes think about sleep and how they deal with it. The most trustworthy source of knowledge.
- Don’t consume caffeine or alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
Caffeine is a known stimulant that can suppress your REM sleep and can be found in coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Alcohol is also affecting your sleep, and it can prevent you from going into a deep sleep stage. It will keep you in the lighter stages of sleep, causing you to possibly wake up easily and have a more challenging time falling back asleep.
- Give essential oils a try.
Many kinds of essential oils would do good for your sleep. They are like a natural and healthier sleep medicine. Find out more at our guide dedicated to aromatherapy. With this guide, you will become the best essential oils keeper that even barmen will envy.
What Stage of Sleep Is the Hardest to Awaken?
The deepest stages of sleep, known as stages 3 and 4, make waking up the most difficult. During these phases, the body enters a state of profound relaxation and reduced physiological activity, making external awakenings challenging.
What Stage of Sleep Do You Sleep Talk?
During the REM sleep stage, your brain and body already have some energy to show you some dreams. This stage is also involved in storing memories, learning, and balancing mood. So, the deeper this stage is, the more things come “on the surface” of your brain, motivating dreams, and eventually, you will be a great speaker! Read this article to learn more about sleep talking and how to stop it.
Does Melatonin Help With REM Sleep?
Several studies show that taking melatonin supplements, about 3 mg a day, can increase your REM sleep and help you stay in the REM stage of your sleep cycle for longer. Ask your doctor to recommend a melatonin supplement, usually in pill form. For detailed information on the side effects of sleeping pills, read here. There are natural alternatives to pills for increasing melatonin levels – yummy and healthy.
To summarize, we learn more and get a better understanding of sleep. The stages and cycles, there is not a single one that we can skip or ignore. All of the stages are connected to each other and cycle through them several times every single night. No need to sacrifice the only remedy that we have for free. But at the same time, don’t take it for granted; work hard on improving the quality of your sleep to get the best of the coming day.
For more information, consider downloading ShutEye, which combines science, simplicity, and efficiency in one app. Good night, and have a sound sleep!
What is REM sleep?
REM sleep is the stage of sleep where dreaming occurs. During this stage, your eyes move rapidly, and brain activity is similar to when you are awake.
What is non-REM sleep?
Non-REM sleep is the portion of the sleep cycle where you are not in a dreaming state. It consists of stages 1, 2, and 3.
What happens during stage 1 of sleep?
Stage 1 is the lightest stage of sleep, where you are transitioning between being awake and asleep. Your muscle tone decreases, and your eyes may move slightly.
What happens during stage 2 of sleep?
Stage 2 is a deeper stage of sleep where your brain waves slow down. It is easy to wake up during this stage, and it may last for about 10-25 minutes.
What happens during stage 3 of sleep?
Stage 3 is also known as deep sleep or slow-wave sleep. It is the stage where your body and brain restore and recharge. This stage typically lasts for about 20-40 minutes during the first sleep cycle and becomes shorter in subsequent cycles.
How long does a sleep cycle last?
A sleep cycle typically lasts for about 90-120 minutes. It includes all stages of sleep, including REM sleep.
How much sleep do I need?
The amount of sleep you need depends on your age and individual needs. Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and function.
What is the importance of quality sleep?
Quality sleep is essential for overall well-being. It helps with cognitive function, emotional regulation, immune system function, and physical recovery. Getting enough high-quality sleep may improve your mood, concentration, and overall health.
What are some common sleep disorders that can affect sleep?
Some common sleep disorders include sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and sleepwalking. These conditions can affect the quality and quantity of sleep you get.