Understanding the Stages of Sleep: A Guide to Sleep Stages

stages of sleep

 

Sleep is important. It’s an undeniable fact that you hear from the time you’re a child. It’s important to get enough sleep and it’s important to sleep well. A lot of attention is paid to how much sleep a person gets. From the time we’re born, it’s not uncommon for a baby to sleep 12-16 hours a day. By the time children become teenagers, they still need at least 8-10 hours of sleep. As for adults, the recommended amount is between 7 and 9 hours, though many of us don’t hit that mark. And if you’re getting less sleep, you need to make the most of the time you get.

Everyone knows how to sleep, but how do we sleep well? Understanding the stages of sleep can help. There are four sleep stages. You start at stage one and then your body goes through the sleep stages until it goes back to stage one and repeats all over again. At one point, there was five stages of sleep, but as mentioned below, sleep cycle stages 3 and 4 were merged into one and now there are three main stages, while stage 4 sleep is the REM sleep cycle.

What are the stages of Sleep?

Our bodies go through four stages of sleep and then the REM sleep cycle. As you go to bed each night, you will start with stage one and progress until you’re in stage 4 sleep and then start again, over and over, until you wake up. One turn through all the sleep stages usually takes just shy of 2 hours.

As you are sleeping, the sleep cycle stages start out with short stages of REM sleeping with longer periods of the deep sleep cycle stages. By the end of the sleep cycle you’re mainly sleeping completely in stages 1, 2, and 4 (REM), with less deep sleep. So, let’s look at the sleep cycle stages and what each one means.

What are the Stages of Sleep?

Stage 1 – The first of four levels of sleep is the lightest level. This is where you’re drifting in and out of sleep. This is the easiest time to wake a person up because you’re not fully asleep. Your eyes are heavier. Your muscles are slowing down. If you’ve ever had the falling feeling and woke up suddenly, you were in the first stage of sleep.

Stage 2 – During this stage your brain is slowing down and your eye movement stops. This is where you’re heading for deep sleep, but you’re not there yet.

Stage 3 – In the third stage, delta waves begin to occur and continue through this level of sleep. This is one of the hardest levels of sleep to be woken up from. Your body produces no muscle activity and your eyes do not move. It’s deep sleep. This is why when you’re woken from this stage of sleep you feel disoriented, and it takes you time to adjust.

It’s worth noting that when a child wets the bed or a person sleepwalks, this behavior generally occurs during stage three sleeping.

Stage 4 REM sleep – REM, or rapid eye movement, is the final stage of sleep. During this time, your breathing is more irregular, your eyes move in different directions (hence the name), and your blood pressure gets higher. When people wake up during REM sleep they often can recount their dreams.

Hopefully, this helps you understand the four stages of sleep better and inspires you to get a good night’s rest. Remember, sleep is as important to your health as eating properly, exercising, or drinking water. If you have sleep problems and feel your mattress is to blame, check our mattress guide. Otherwise, feel free to browse our sleep-related articles and reviews to learn more about this important topic.

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