By now we’re all aware of the impact deep sleep can have on our wellbeing.
Most research settles between 7-10 hours of sleep as an ideal amount of time for our brains to get recharged through the night, and a big part of why involves the stages of sleep.
Understanding what the stages of sleep are and how they serve your wellbeing can be a great first step to better sleep.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your personal health and you want to start with sleep, here’s everything you need to know to get started:
During the 1950s, researchers innovated a new way to study the way we sleep, the electroencephalograph, or the EEG as it is now popularly known. It was this tool that allowed scientists to learn more about the different stages of sleep we go through in a single night.
Broadly speaking, the stages of sleep can be split into two categories. There’s NREM sleep, which stands for non-rapid eye movement, and is also called ‘quiet sleep’. NREM sleep takes up most of your sleep cycle. There is also REM sleep, which is known as ‘active sleep’ and is the period where dreams and deep sleep occurs.
Both these phases are critical for a good night’s sleep, and to reap all the benefits of sleep, you need to have the right balance. That’s why getting the right amount of rest is so crucial to your health.
Finding the best mattress you can for your sleep can keep you undisturbed for eight hours each night. Learn more about theif you’re looking for ways to catch some much-needed snooze time.
Stage 1 - Wakefulness
We’re all aware of the relief we get after tucking ourselves in our comfy beds and getting ready to close our eyes and get some sleep. Those first few moments of rest is what’s involved in stage 1 of NREM sleep.
Generally, this is an extremely light kind of sleep, and it only really lasts for a few minutes. Your body begins to prepare for the night ahead - this means both your breathing and heartbeat start to slow down and any tension in your muscle is released.
This is a period of sleep that’s very easy to get interrupted from. For better sleep, it’s important to keep distractions like phones or any other devices away as you’re trying to get to bed.
Stage 2 - Light Sleep
A continuation from stage 1 of NREM sleep, stage 2 is generally known as ‘light sleep’. During this stage of sleep, your heart rate and breathing continue to drop, and you’re a little less likely to wake up or be interrupted during this period. Your body temperature also begins to drop around stage 2 of your sleep. You might have trouble sleeping during this stage if you’re a hot sleeper, so make sure to check you have the right kind of bedding to stay uninterrupted during this period.
Your brain does something exciting in this phase of sleep - known as sleep spindles, these are basically quick bursts of high activity. Scientists believe sleep spindles can actually trigger the mechanisms necessary for synaptic plasticity, which is a scientific way of explaining the way how we comprehend the world and process emotions.
Stage 3 & Stage 4 - Deep Sleep
The last two stages of NREM sleep are pretty critical when it comes to you performing wellness boosting tasks. You’re far less likely to wake up from this stage of sleep. Your body is fully relaxed, and your heartbeat and breathing are both at their slowest rate yet. Those who have trouble sleeping through this phase struggle with energy levels throughout the day.
Stages 3 & 4 are also when your immune system begins to strengthen itself. The tissues in your body begin to repair themselves and grow at this stage, so they can be crucial for cell regeneration and healing your body. This is why these stages are especially important to complete if you have to be on your feet all day, or are an athlete who needs to recover from a day of hard workouts.
REM Sleep - Dream Zone
Once you’re done with the NREM stages of sleep, it’s time to move on to REM. The rapid eye movement stage comes around nearly ninety minutes into your night of sleep, and as the stages of sleep progress, this period lasts longer and longer.
During this time, your heartbeat and breathing quicken, and it is this stage of sleep that is responsible for dreams. The way we experience REM sleep can vary depending on a lot of factors such as health and age - infants spend up to 50% of their sleep cycle in REM sleep, for instance, whereas adults only spend about 20% of the same.
It’s important for your brain to complete it’s REM sleep stages before waking up. Most of us are all too familiar with waking up in the middle of a bad dream and feeling like you’ve had no sleep at all - this is because interrupting your REM cycle leaves you groggy.
Understanding the stages of sleep and how they can contribute to a more balanced version of yourself is important when you’re trying to get better sleep. You spend anywhere from 4-7 hours per night in NREM sleep, whereas you only spend around 90-120 minutes in REM sleep.
Aim for eight hours of sleep every night so that you’re able to get the balance required for a full night of rest. To really maximize the benefits of a good night’s sleep, it’s crucial to understand the role each stage has in helping your body recuperate.
If you tend to have trouble sleeping more generally, it’s important to optimize your sleep setup so that you’re priming yourself for a comfy night. From finding the most comfortable mattress you can to ensuring you follow a strict sleep schedule, keeping things simple is the easiest way to catch up on your eight hours each night.
Getting a good night’s sleep is all about putting daily habits into practice with discipline. With time, you’ll be moving through the stages of sleep like a pro, and feeling more energized than ever as you wake up, ready to take on the day.