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When we’re young, we really don’t think about it too much, but after we’ve put some years behind us and have to catch a good night’s rest in order to function at a job in the adult world, we come to understand the value of sleep. According to research we’ve looked at and analyzed, the average human being spends a third of their life sleeping, and it should come as no surprise that good sleep equates to good health.
In this post, we are going to take a look at the different stages of sleep, from what is known as the “awake” stage to the more commonly-known REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, because it’s important to understand that each sleep stage plays a part in allowing your body and mind to wake up refreshed.
Before we get started, let’s go over some fundamentals about the different sleep cycles. As we have obviously already alluded to, the stages of sleep occur in cycles, each lasting approximately 90 to 120 minutes, with normal individuals undergoing about four to five sleep cycles during the night. It is also common for these stages of sleep, throughout the evening, to continue shifting – for example, individuals tend to experience an increased percentage of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep during the first half of the night, while tending to experience an increased percentage of rapid eye movement activity in the second part.
What Occurs During Each Sleep Stage
Awake Sleep Stage
As the initial stage of what’s known as the “non-REM sleep cycle,” this transports a sleeping individual from a state of wakefulness to “lullaby land;” in all seriousness, this stage lasts just a few minutes, contrary to popular belief, and is considered the lightest stage of slumber.
Sweet Sleep Studio Fun Fact: An individual awakened during this stage won’t actually be aware that he or she has fallen asleep.
Characteristics that define the awake stage include:
- Relaxed muscles
- Rolling eyes and slowed movements
- Slower breathing and heartrate
Boasting the largest percentage of an individual’s total sleep time, this is the next sleep stage in the non-REM category, also considered a slightly heavier stage of sleep compared to the awake classification. In this stage, an individual is “prepared” for a deeper sleep and can be awakened easily.
During light sleep, an individual will:
- Exhibit no eye movement
- Exude breathing and a heartrate that’s further slowed down compared to the awake stage
- Experience a drop in body temperature
Here we get to the deepest sleep stage before rapid eye movement territory, commonly referred to as “delta sleep” or “slow wave;” an individual’s body performs crucial health-nurturing housekeeping, so to speak, during this final pre-REM stage.
It is important to note that, in the deep stage:
- An individual would be difficult to awaken
- A person’s eye movements would be almost non-existent
- The presence of delta brain waves is recognized
- The body’s immune system is bolstered
- Tissue growth/repair and cell regeneration occur
- A person’s body is in a fully relaxed state
- An individual’s heartbeat and breathing are at their lowest
Unbeknownst to many – even in certain medical circles – the REM stage of sleep is experienced in two phases: the phasic and the tonic. The phasic stage is characterized by the aforementioned rapid eye movement reaction, while the tonic stage is devoid of any such characteristics. REM sleep kicks in approximately 90 minutes after we fall asleep, and this is where all dreaming takes place (something you may have heard discussed in the Nightmare on Elm Street films, if you happen to be a horror buff).
Interestingly enough, the REM stage only lasts for 10 minutes in the first sleep cycle, yet it increases with every cycle, ultimately lasting between 30 to 60 minutes in the final cycle.
Here are some things to be aware of with regard to REM sleep:
- Individuals experience an increase and variance in both heart and breathing rates
- Increased brain activity is always detected
- Occasional twitches throughout the night paralyze muscles to an extent
To learn more about sleep disorders or the various stages of sleep, contact Sweet Sleep Studio today by calling (913) 309-5963.