The Stages Of Sleep
When you spend a day tired and lethargic it’s easy to say you didn’t get enough sleep and you’ll go to bed earlier. But while sleep duration is important, you need to focus on more than just how many hours of sleep you get.
It’s about the sleep quality and whether that sleep was actually high quality rest. Progressing smoothly through the sleep cycle is vital for getting a good night’s sleep. But what are these stages of sleep? Keep reading to discover the sleep cycle your body will go through every night.
What are the stages of sleep?
The sleep cycle has been divided into 4 stages. Awake, light, deep and REM sleep. REM standing for rapid eye movement. You will cycle through these stages during a typical night, each being essential for aiding your mental and physical health to prepare your body for the next day.
Stage 1 Awake
The awake period is simply what it says. It is the time spent before falling asleep and includes brief awakenings during sleep. It is during this short period you move from wakefulness to sleep that your heartbeat and breathing slow. Your muscles will begin to relax and your brain waves will shift into a calmer pattern.
Stage 2 Light Sleep
Light sleep guides you into deep sleep. During light sleep your muscles will sink further, they may even jerk. Respiration will continue to slow and the heart rate decreases. Your body temperature will drop and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity. You will spend more time here in your sleep cycle than anywhere else however waking up is easier.
Stage 3 Deep Sleep
Deep sleep focuses on restoring your body and is the period of sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning. Your brain will show long, slow brain waves and your body will promote muscle growth and repair. Everything relaxes even further and blood pressure will drop. It is in this stage that waking up is more difficult and you may be disoriented if awoken early.
Stage 4 REM sleep
REM sleep re-energises your mind. It will first occur about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Here your respiration and heart rate will increase. Vivid dreams may occur but the body becomes immobile to stop you from acting them out. REM sleep benefits the memory, learning and problem solving. As you age, you spend less of your sleep time in REM sleep.
How much sleep do we need?
Your need for sleep varies dependent on age and environmental factors and yet, it also varies significantly across individuals of the same age. There is no magic number of sleep hours that works for everyone but the below are a good rule of thumb to go by if you want you and your family to feel fully rested:
- Babies initially will need to sleep as much as 16 to 18 hours per day to help boost growth and development.
- Children and teens should be aiming for an average of 9.5 hours of sleep per night.
- Adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep.
Why is REM sleep important?
All sleep stages are important as they allow the brain and body time to heal and develop. However failure to obtain enough time in REM and/or deep sleep can negatively affect memory and emotions. Fortunately your body is naturally intune and will regulate your sleep cycles to ensure you spend more time in the stages of sleep you need.
Tips for getting a good night’s sleep?
Whilst you don’t have control over your sleep cycle, you can take some simple actions to ensure you give yourself the best opportunity for a good night’s sleep.
Re-examine your sleeping environment, ensure it is clean, noise-free and has as few distractions as possible (this includes mobiles). Try and set a more consistent sleep schedule, avoid alcohol before bedtime and give yourself time to unwind. To help you relax into the evening consider diffusing a calming essential oil blend or why not play your favourite acoustic track.
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