It’s safe to say that most of us know about the importance of sleep. Getting sufficient rest every night not only helps keep our body young and healthy but also affects our ability to function both physically and mentally. However, what is unknown to many is the fact that we have sleep cycles and stages.
Every night our bodies go through these sleep cycles the moment we shut our eyes for some much-needed rest. Each stage causes a particular reaction in our body that not only helps repair our muscles and body but also helps boost our immune system. Reaching deep sleep has the benefit of helping us process memories, dreams, and refreshes our brain for the following day.
The Stages of Sleep
The five stages of sleep consist of stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. So what role do these stages play in your nightly sleeping patterns?
Stage 1: This early stage is known as light sleeping and is experienced in the seconds or minutes after drifting off to sleep. It’s during this stage that you can be awoken easily and experience twitching, muscle contractions (hypnic jerk), and a sensation of falling. It’s also during this period that your eye movements and muscle activity in your body slow down significantly in preparation for stage 2.
Stage 2: This second stage, also categorized as light sleep, begins the process of slowing down the function of the body, helping prepare it for a deep sleep. This stage lasts approximately 20 minutes and as a result, allows for the slowing down of both the metabolic and heart rate functions. Additionally, this period of sleep also decreases body temperature and increases brain wave frequency.
Stage 3: Once you reach stage 3, you will no longer be easily roused by movements or noise. This is due to the slowing down of brain waves (delta waves) which are interspersed with faster but smaller waves that cause you to achieve a deeper sleep.
Stage 4: This last and final stage before lapsing into REM sleep is significant. It’s during this stage that the body recovers and stimulates growth and development. It’s also during this deep sleep that the body repairs tissues and muscles, boosts the immune function, and reboots energy for the following day. Much like stage 3, this fourth stage allows the body to fall into a deeper sleep and it’s in this period that dreaming, sleepwalking, or bedwetting may occur.
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep: The last stage of sleep is known as REM. This stage is the most intense out of the previous four because it increases blood pressure, heart rate, and brain activity. While in REM, sleep breathing becomes fast, shallow and irregular, and eyes move rapidly, in a jerk-like movement. As strange as it may sound, REM sleep actually plays a very important role in our memory and learning function. It’s during this stage that our brain is able to store and process information from the day, storing it in our long-term memory.
What Is a Sleep Cycle?
A sleep cycle refers to the stages of sleep that we go through every time we close our eyes to rest. These cycles chronicle the time it takes for someone to go through each stage, but did you know that we go through more than one cycle? In fact, we go through various sleep cycles throughout the night with each stage known to take approximately 5 to 15 minutes and a complete cycle averaging 90 minutes.
On average, individuals go through four to five cycles per night but as the night progresses, the time it takes to complete a cycle increases to 100 to 120 minutes. These cycles generally consist of a pattern and progression that include:
Non-REM sleep to light sleep to deep sleep, then back to deep sleep and light sleep, and ending in REM sleep. However, as the night progresses the sleeper usually spends more time in REM sleep.
Visit Dr. Pearson in Staten Island, NY
If you’ve noticed that you struggle to get sufficient rest throughout the night, it’s time to visit Dr. Pearson in Staten Island, NY. Our dedicated dentist and staff are ready to assist you and alleviate your condition towards better health. Seeking professional guidance and a proper diagnosis will help Dr. Pearson deliver the right treatment plan for your specific needs. Contact us today for a consultation, we’d love to hear from you.