Sleep 101: The 5 Stages of Sleep
Every night, people from all over the globe climb into their beds, lay their heads on their pillows and fall asleep. Well, almost everyone that is. More people than you think have insomnia or have a hard time reaching the five stages of sleep that it is said are recommended to feel alert, fresh, and ready to take on the day ahead the next morning. You would think that sleeping would be a passive thing to do, but in reality, sleep is a very active time for your mind, though you, of course, are asleep and don’t realize it.
There are many reasons that good sleep is important to your body, mind, and health and we will go into a few of those reasons in our blog today. Sleep is also important to everything from processing everything that happened in your day to muscle recovery and regulating your hormones. All of this isn’t done simply by laying down and falling asleep, however. There are said to be five stages of sleep that our body, and our minds, need to go through for us to wake up healthy, energized, and ready to take on the world around us. While you may have heard that you need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, according to your age, that’s actually not enough to keep you healthy. The quality of that sleep is important as well.
Over the course of a night, your body should go through 5 stages of sleep, four to six times a night, with you spending on average ninety minutes in each of the five stages. Makes the idea of sleeping a little more complicated and a whole lot overwhelming doesn’t it? The last thing we want is to be so worried about how those five stages of sleep work and getting through them, that we don’t sleep at all.
During each of these five stages, a special restorative function is being performed, making it extremely important for you to reach each stage during your slumber. This takes place without any effort from you. Sleep is actually divided into two categories. The first one is REM sleep and the second is non-REM sleep. When you first go to sleep, you start the night in non-REM, then move into REM sleep and so on, until you wake up. Sounds a little complicated and a whole lot like work doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t, really.
That’s why, in our blog today, we’ll go into the five stages of sleep, what they are, what they do, and a few other things as well, so you don’t have to worry and can just get to the act of sleeping, so that you are bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to conquer the world, each and every morning.
So, grab a chair, a mug of hot tea, and join us as we delve into the five stages of sleep and what you need to know about them together.
The 5 Stages of Sleep Explained
In this section of our blog, we’re going to do the best we can to explain the five stages of sleep in layman’s terms. Ready to get started? Then, let’s go.
Stage One of Sleep: Transitional Stage: A Time of Light Sleep
The first stage of sleep is also known as the transitional stage. This is the time when you’re just drifting off to sleep, in and out of consciousness. It’s during this stage of the sleep process that your muscles can tend to jerk and pull you out of sleep easily. This jerking is called hypnic myoclonia. This stage falls in the non-REM, or non-rapid eye movement stage of the process. In layman’s terms, this is the stage where you’re just starting to get drowsy and then move into a light sleep that it’s easy to be startled out of. People who suffer from insomnia have a hard time with this stage of sleep. If you do, try making a sleep schedule and avoiding screen time before bed, so you have an easier time slipping from stage one into stage two.
Stage Two of Sleep: Longest Stage of Sleep: Also, a Time of Light Sleep
While stage two is the longest stage of sleep, lasting for 50 percent of the time you’re asleep, it’s also considered to be a light stage of sleep as well. This is a non-REM stage, which includes your heart rate starting to slow down as you relax and your core body temperature to start to decrease. Your eye movement stops in this stage as well, and the brain starts to slow down with something known as sleep spindles that happen occasionally during this stage as well. Your muscles will tense, then relax off and on until you are asleep enough to sink into stages three and four of the cycle.
Stages Three and Four of Sleep: Deepest Stages of Sleep
Stages three and four are combined because they make up the deepest stages of the five-stage sleep cycle. Both stages are also the time when you experience times of slow wave sleep, also known as SWS. It’s these stages of sleep that are the most difficult to wake up from, and why you could be groggy and disoriented if you are woken up in these two stages. Muscle recovery is helped during these stages as well because the blood flow to the muscles is faster. Stages three and four are also non-REM stages and are mostly responsible for rejuvenating all parts of the body. Once you have gotten through stages three and four, you will move into the final stage of the process, and then begin it over again.
Stage Five of Sleep: REM Movement Stage
Once you have entered stage five of the sleep cycle, you will be in the rapid eye movement stage. This is the only stage that has this and is known as REM. This stage is completely different from the other four stages, as this is the stage where the brain is most active, while your physical body is resting. This stage is called REM, the rapid eye movement stage, because, during this stage, your eyes will be darting back and forth underneath your eyelids. Since the brain is active at this time, this is when most dreaming happens, but only actually accounts for about 20 percent of the time you spent sleeping per night. Even though it only counts for about 20 percent, it is actually the most important stage of sleep for revitalizing your mind and helping you be refreshed the next morning.
You will go through these stages of sleep quite a few times during a night, with each stage lasting a little longer each time. These are crucial to living a healthy lifestyle and being refreshed and physically and mentally prepared to face each morning and whatever the day might bring. However, if you suffer from insomnia or a chronic condition that keeps you from reaching all five stages of sleep, it could put your health at great risk. If you’re having problems sleeping, please make an appointment with your primary care provider to see what the underlying cause might be and to get the help you need.
These are the five stages of sleep that you should know about and a brief explanation of each. It’s important to reach these five stages when you sleep for a healthy body and a healthy mind. Next up, we will discuss the dangers that can arise from not reaching stages four and five, the deep sleep stages, the way that you should.
Dangers of not Reaching Deep Sleep
Since deep sleep is responsible for helping your mind process everything that went on in that day, it stands to reason that not getting enough of stage three and stage four sleep can be dangerous. Some of the things and conditions it has been linked to are listed below.
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Heart disease
- Sleep eating
- Night terrors
If you’re experiencing insomnia or something else that is keeping you from sleeping for any amount of extended time, then it’s best to get a checkup scheduled with your doctor as soon as you possibly can.
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
Now, that we know the dangers of not getting the right amount of sleep and reaching stages three and four, let’s discuss a few tips for helping you get the sleep you need and deserve.
- Set yourself a schedule that you follow each and every bedtime, where you go to bed at a certain time and wake up at a certain time as well. Try not to deviate from that schedule, unless you absolutely have to.
- Exercising for 20 to 30 minutes a day is also a great way to get the sleep you need. Remember, however, don’t work out right before bedtime, because that’s going to ramp you up, not calm you down.
- Don’t drink anything but water for a few hours before bedtime. Anything with caffeine or sugar in it is just going to keep you awake.
- Read a book, take a bath, drink a cup of herbal tea, meditate, anything that will help you to sleep. It’s important to set a before bedtime routine, so your body and mind know it’s time to shut down.
- Think about replacing pillows that you’ve had for a year or longer, especially if they are uncomfortable.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool and dark, with little to no distractions.
These are just a few of the top tips out there for making sure that you get to all of the five stages of sleep, especially stages three and four. Remember, it’s extremely important for the health of your mind and body to reach these stages.
Reasons Why Good Sleep is Important
You may be wondering or have wondered in the past just why good sleep is important to your health. After all, shouldn’t a few hours of quick shuteye suffice? No, it doesn’t. Maybe once in a while, but not on a regular basis. With that being said, let’s move to our next section on the reasons you should be dedicated to getting good sleep.
Consume Fewer Calories
Studies have shown that people who sleep well tend to consume fewer calories during the day. It is said that sleeping poorly affects your hormones, which gives you a bigger appetite, meaning you’re hungrier than you normally would be. Also being tired leads to stress, which leads to stress eating, something none of us want to deal with.
Improves Concentration and Your Productivity
It stands to reason that if your sleep is good, you will have more energy. More energy and a clearer mind, both of which you get from enough sleep, will help you to concentrate better and increase your productivity in the tasks you perform each and every day. Can you imagine how much you could get done if you weren’t tired and drained all of the time?
Reduces Your Risk of Developing Certain Diseases
From Type two diabetes to heart disease and strokes, studies have shown that getting good sleep lessens the possibility that you will develop these and certain other diseases. This is, of course, no guarantee that you won’t develop these conditions, so it is still important to see your doctor for regular checkups and make an appointment if you have any symptoms as well.
The bottom line here is that there are a few things that you can do to live a healthy, fit, and happy lifestyle. Exercise the right way, eat right, and get enough sleep. It’s pretty simple if you think about it really. If you take care of your body, your body will take care of you.
This concludes our blog on the five stages of sleep. Remember, if you are having trouble sleeping, it’s best to contact your doctor for help. For, now until next time!
- Sleep USA: Understanding the 5 Stages of Sleep
- HealthLine: 10 Reasons Why Good Sleep is Important
- Healthline: What is Deep Sleep and Why is it Important?