Stages of Sleep

Understanding Your Sleep Cycle for a Healthier Life

Did you sleep well last night? If you are still yawning and are too bleary-eyed to read the words, you probably did not.

Sleep deprivation is a common issue among most adults. Research shows, 1 out of 3 adults suffers from a lack of sleep, which can affect health and productivity in the long run. An adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep every night; those who get less than seven hours are sleep-deprived.

That said, it must also be noted that sleep isn’t just about the number of hours you stay in bed– it is more about how well you sleep, no matter how long. Improving the quality of sleep is essential than just increasing the time you sleep, and this can be accomplished by understanding your sleep cycle.

What Is The Sleep Cycle?

Sleep doesn’t happen the moment you go to bed and shut your eyes. It has a pattern and goes through five stages, ranging from light to deep sleep. This is the sleep cycle.

Anyone who doesn’t complete the whole cycle, or wakes up before all five stages are passed, remains sleep starved and tired throughout the day. Sound sleep happens when the person wakes up at the end of the cycle after having completed all five stages uninterruptedly.

One sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. Depending on how long a person sleeps, they may go through four or five sleep cycles every night.

What Are The Different Stages Of Sleep?

The body slowly falls into a state of rest over these five stages. The first two stages are considered light sleep, the next two deep sleep, and the final stage is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) when dreaming occurs.

Stage 1

Stage 1 sleep is when the body starts going into sleep mode, brain activity slows down, and muscles begin to relax. This is the lightest stage of sleep when a person is still conscious of his surroundings and can jerk awake for no reason.

Coming out of this stage is easy. So when your phone rings while you’re just starting to doze off, it isn’t too difficult to answer the phone and have a conversation.

Stage 2

Stage 2 sleep is when actual sleep begins, and the brain becomes even slower, heart rate drops, and body temperature starts to fall. Eye movement stops at this stage, as the body enters the state of deep sleep.

If a person snores, then this is the stage when the snoring starts. This is because of muscle relaxation and the collapsing of the upper airway of the throat.

Stages 3 and 4

In stage 3 and stage 4 sleep a person goes into deep sleep. The brain becomes extremely slow, and being woken up from sleep at this stage causes grogginess and disorientation.

Sleep disorders like night terrors, somnambulism, and bed wetting usually occur at this stage, when a person is transitioning from non-REM to REM sleep.

Stage 5 (REM):

Dreaming occurs at stage 5 sleep or REM sleep, accompanied by rapid eye movement, and increased brain function. While the rest of the muscles remain inactive, the brain, lungs, and heart become active at this stage. People who wake up from this stage often remember their dreams.

Age and the Sleep Cycle

Sleep patterns change as a person grows older. Babies and children spend more than half their sleep time in the REM stage. Adults spend about 20 per cent of their sleep in the REM stage, and older adults spend less than 10 per cent of their time in deep sleep.

This change occurs when the body’s need for sleep changes. Babies and children need more sleep than adults explaining why their sleep is the deepest.

How to Ensure a Proper Sleep Cycle

The quality of sleep we get at night determines how alert and productive we are during the day. The busyness of the modern world has left most people sleep-starved. Several people also suffer from sleep-related disorders that affect daily life. A simple solution to this is to perfect the sleep cycle.

There are various ways to help yourself go through all five stages of sleep to wake up refreshed and energetic.

Sleep Deep

Most people never get to the REM stage of sleep that is vital for a sharp memory and alertness during the day. Women usually have a lighter sleep than men and can wake up at the tiniest noises. Things like an uncomfortable room, a hard bed, excessive caffeine or alcohol, disturbing noises, and stress can stop a person from going into deep sleep, and they need to be eliminated to ensure proper quality of sleep.

Wake-Up at the Same Time Every Day

When you go to sleep at the same time every day your body falls into a rhythm, and so does your sleep cycle. This ensures the completion of four or five sleep cycles each night, making you feel fresh and alert when you awaken in the morning. Even if you go to bed late, wake up at the same time instead of sleeping till late.

Avoid the Snooze Button

When your body adjusts to a healthy sleep cycle, you will find yourself waking naturally at the end of sleep, and not require the alarm clock anymore. Even if you do take the aid of the alarm to wake up in the morning, resist from hitting the snooze button. This will only make you go into deep sleep again, and make you feel more tired when you awaken.

Take Naps If Necessary

Several people require more than an average 6-7 hours of sleep every day. In such cases, taking a nap sometime during the day is a good idea. A 90-minute nap allows you to complete a whole cycle, but even thirty minutes is good enough to feel refreshed and energetic.

A lot of your day depends on the kind of sleep you get at night. For better concentration, productivity, and overall health, it is important to maintain proper sleep quality. Know and understand your sleep cycle for a better snooze and healthier life.


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