On average, people spend around one-third of their lives sleeping or trying to sleep. But have we ever asked ourselves what happens in our brain, and throughout our body within each stage when we are asleep. Knowing what is going on within the different sleep stages can help us improve our sleep quality and quantity.
What Are the Stages of Sleep
Sometimes it might be challenging for you to get recommended hours of sleep each night, however, you should always have in mind that sleep is one of the integral steps for a productive and energized day.
Below are the well-known five different stages of sleep:
- Sleep Onset
- Beginning of Slow-Wave Sleep
- Experience of Deep Sleep
- Deepest Sleep
- REM Sleep
The REM stage of sleep together with stages one and two are known as the lightest stages of sleep, while stages three and four as the deepest.
All of the five different sleep stages are important for the maintenance of our health. Having quality sleep means having a healthy and active life.
Normally we cycle four to six times through each stage of sleep. It usually takes us 90 to 110 minutes to complete a full cycle from stage one to REM sleep.
What Occurs During Stage One Sleep?
Stage one starts when we put our head on a pillow and begin to slowly float in and out of consciousness. This stage is brief and light. At this point, you might be even partially awake, and as your mind begins drifting off, you begin to wind down.
During this stage it is not unusual to experience falling sensation, this sensation is known as hypnic myoclonia or hypnic jerk. Hypnic jerk happens when our muscles jerk and force us back awake. This stage is also known as the transitional phase of sleep because once our muscles relax, our body starts the transition from stage one into stage two.
What Occurs During Stage Two Sleep?
During stage two sleep, our body completely slows down. However, we still might experience sleep spindles, which are occasional bursts of brain waves. During this time memory is consolidated. Although people spend half of their time asleep in this stage, this is a non-REM lighter sleep stage.
What Occurs During Stage Three Sleep?
This is the stage of deep sleep. At this stage our heartbeat and breathing slow down, even more, our body temperature is decreased, and our brain is at its lowest level of activity. In other words, our body is completely relaxed and we cannot be easily awakened.
What Occurs During Stage Four Sleep?
In this stage, healing happens. Once everything is slowed down our body starts repairing itself. This is a stage of deep sleep indispensable for an energized and active life. More importantly during this stage besides releasing various important hormones to restore cellular energy, our body also releases human growth hormones. Growth hormone helps us to recover from workouts or injuries, and that is why stage four sleep is essential for our health.
What Occurs During REM Sleep?
This is the stage also known as the rapid eye stage is when we are most likely to experience vivid dreams. During REM sleep our breathing is irregular, our heart rate and blood pressure levels rise. Our body uses a protective mechanism to keep us from getting out of bed, temporarily paralyzing our limbs and muscles. This stage is important for brain revitalization.
How Sleep Apnea Affects Our Sleep Cycle?
Even though can occur during any of the sleep stages, sleep apnea is the worst during REM sleep. If we spend less time in the deep, revitalizing stages of sleep we might wake up without energy, sluggish, and feel fatigued throughout the day.
Do You Need Help Improving Your Sleep Cycle?
If you think you are not spending a considerable amount of time in each of the five sleep stages due to sleep apnea you may need to apply some of these tips. First, limit your sugar or caffeine intake, this will improve your quality sleep time. You can also create a bedtime routine using a sleep tracker.