THE 5 STAGES OF A SLEEP CYCLE
Last week was the beginning of my new Sleep-series. Sleeping is a beautiful thing... Unless you don't sleep well, which is the case for about 50% of adults. If this is you, go check out the first part of the series HERE.
Today in part two, we're going to be learning more about a full sleeping cycle. Did you know that when you sleep, you go through five different stages? By understanding how every stage works, you may unconsciously go through each one of them more easily. Just knowing about the workings of a sleep cycle may actually help you sleep better. Watch the following video or read the full blog to know more...
STAGE 1: FALLING ASLEEP
(1 TO 5 MINUTES)
Stage one is the interim section between consciousness and unconsciousness. Your eyes are closing, you're actually falling asleep. It only lasts for one to five minutes. I can already hear some people saying: "Uh, I object. I spend a lot more time than five minutes here. It takes me a long time to fall asleep" Well, that's why you're watching this series, right? So that you can figure out how to sleep better!
STAGE 2: LIGHT SLEEP
(10 TO 25 MINUTES)
Stage number two is light sleep. It's the start of the period before entering deep sleep. Your heart rate slows down, your breathing slows down, your muscles relax, you drop your body temperature a little bit, and your eye movement stops as well. Brainwave activity is marked as short, quick electrical activity, just like twitching. Do you twitch at night or know someone that does? It means they're in stage two.
We go through more than one cycle during the night, and each cycle is going to be different. For example, you might spend more time in the light sleep stage in your first cycle, and then progressively spend less and less time in it as you advance through the night.
STAGE 3: THE DELTA PHASE
(20 TO 40 MINUTES)
Stage three is the Delta stage. They call it the Delta stage because the brain activity during this period is like a pattern of Delta waves. Your muscles relax even further, your pulse slows down even more, the breathing slows as well... Everything decreases in stage three so that the body can relax even further. This stage lasts for about 20 to 40 minutes. Then we get into stage four: The deep sleep.
STAGE 4: DEEP SLEEP
(10 TO 40 MINUTES)
Stage four is when your body temperature drops and your blood flow decreases. During that stage, your brain produces longer Delta waves. It's quite difficult to wake somebody up during the deep sleep stage, because we don't pay any attention to the outside world. That's also when we start to form memories from all the actions that have been happening during the day.
STAGE 5: REM SLEEP
(10 TO 60 MINUTES)
The stage that we aim to achieve is this one, stage number five: REM sleep. It stands for Rapid Eye Movement. That's the moment where our eyes start moving really fast. First, we need to understand that it's an actual cycle. We go from Light Sleep to Delta sleep to Deep Sleep, and somehow, we have to kind of reawaken ourselves in order to start another cycle. REM sleep is that super productive time that is studied a lot by neuroscientists, because it is believed that REM sleep plays a vital role in the ability to learn and to remember. The brain processes, consolidates and stores information into the long-term memory during this stage. It's a very active moment; that's why our eyes move faster.
It takes about 90 minutes to get into REM sleep. All the other phases are dedicated to lead you to it, but REM sleep itself only lasts for about 10 minutes. We don't spend a lot of time there at once, but since you go through lots of cycles throughout the night, the numbers add up, and as the cycles progress, each episode of REM is going to get longer. Ideally, you should aim to reach about a 90-minute total period in REM sleep.
For healthy adults, spending 20 to 25% of your time asleep in the REM stage is a good goal. For example, if you get seven to eight hours of sleep, you would aim for about 90 minutes in REM. Infants and babies, in contrast, spend about half of their sleep time in REM.
KNOW YOUR CYCLES
Let's say that it takes you half an hour to go to sleep, and then you go through four full sleep cycles during the night. Four sleep cycles take about six hours to complete, so plan the time you'll need to spend in bed: in this case, plan six and a half hours in bed. If you go through five cycles, you would need to spend eight hours in bed, still counting the half hour you need to fall asleep.
Figuring out how much time you need to fall asleep is a good start. Try to remember that it's ideal to complete a full cycle before you awaken.
In part three, we will be talking about the importance of completing a cycle before you actually get up. How should you set up your alarm? What's the deal with snoozing? What about napping? Dreaming?
I'll see you next time!
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Check out some of my previous blog posts...
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