In today’s fast paced environment sleep seems to be getting pushed further and further down people’s priority list. But with recent studies showing the long-term effects lack of sleep can do, it’s about time we get more serious about sleep.
How often do you find yourself thinking as long as I get 8 hours of sleep I’ll be fine? Humans get so focused on the amount of sleep we’re having, that we forget about the quality, which is equally as important!
Our overall quality of life can be seriously affected by not getting quality sleep. When we sleep many important functions take place to help the body recover and repair physically. This is why it is imperative we get healthy sleep.
This is where the different stages of sleep come into play. Did you know that when you sleep your brain is cycling through five different stages. There are two main types of sleep; rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. The Non-REM state is divided into four stages with the fifth stage being REM. A complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes.
The time between first closing your eyes and entering stage 1 is known as sleep onset.
Stage 1- this is very light sleep, where you are drifting in and out of consciousness and are easily woken. This stage usually only lasts between 5-10 minutes. In this first stage is when our body temperature begins to drop and muscles start to relax.
Stage 2 – in this stage your breathing pattern, heart rate and the functioning of the brain slows down and your body is getting ready for deep sleep This stage usually lasts between 30-45 minutes.
Stage 3 & 4- throughout stages three and four is when you’ll enter deep sleep. This is when you will be most difficult to wake. Your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and brain waves reach their lowest levels.
Stage 4 – is known as the healing stage when the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, cellular energy is restored, and the immune system strengthens.
Stage 5 or REM - this stage is called Rapid eye movement (REM) due to your eyes moving rapidly from side to side. It usually occurs around 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Adults will experience 5 to 6 REM stages each night, on average, with each stage getting longer with each cycle. In this stage your heart rate will rise back to a normal rate, you can experience dreaming and some people may even experience paralysis in their limbs.
Each stage is uniquely important in getting quality sleep, for example; deep sleep is the stage that we need to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. It can be hard to wake from deep sleep, so in the case that you do, you will feel particularly groggy. According to Healthline Media (2019) during deep sleep, glucose metabolism in the brain increases, overall improving short-term and long-term memory and learning.
Backing up these claims, Harvard Business School Publishing (2009) have stated “a lack of REM sleep results in slower cognitive and social processing, problems with memory, and difficulty concentrating”.
REM sleep is also when the body produces important hormones to do with growth and development of the body. Other benefits of deep sleep include; energy restoration, cell regeneration, increasing blood supply to muscles, growth and repair of tissues and bones and strengthening the immune system (Healthline media, 2019).
In each sleep cycle your brain waves, breathing, heart, and temperature will be different. which is why it is important we go through each stage every night. Your ability to function and feel well while you're awake depends on whether you're getting enough of each stage of sleep during the sleep cycle.
Constantly waking up feeling tired is not normal. An understanding of the sleep stages and how one should cycle through them will help you make the necessary changes to achieving healthy sleep and your overall quality of life (American Sleep Apnea Association, 2017).
Remember sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity!