Do you ever wish there were more hours in the day? Of course, we all do. Our busy lifestyles push us to use every minute of the day. But what if we didn’t sleep? In fact, a major portion of our lives, about 25 years, is spent sleeping. So what if you could get some of that time back? Just imagine all the things you could do with a shorter sleep cycle. You could read inspirational books, learn a new language, fantasize about dream warriors, or even get a second job.
Sadly, not sleeping isn’t an option. Lack of sleep, or worse, permanent insomnia, can result in severe health issues (oversleeping too). Unless you are part of the rare sleepless elite, most adults need at least 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
How much do you really know about your own sleep cycle? We’re all familiar with the importance of sleep. But most people don’t know about the different stages of sleep in our sleep cycle or understand the benefits of sleep.
Sleep Cycle Phases: REM Sleep & NREM Sleep
Our sleep cycle consists of two major periods, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. About 75-80% is NREM sleep during which the ability to form declarative memories is badly affected. It is very essential because the phase helps in increased growth hormone release, which is required for cell growth and repair.
The exact purpose of REM sleep is still very unclear but the effects are definitely less severe compared to NREM sleep. Even though we dream during both the phases, REM cycle dreams are most vivid and is a safe place where we can face emotions that aren’t usually encountered in everyday life.
The Stages Of Sleep In Your Sleep Cycle
Understanding the difference between REM sleep and NREM sleep is important. But there’s another categorization that divides sleep into five different stages. These five stages of sleep are very distinct from one another.
- Stage 1 Sleep: In this drowsy stage, your eyelids start getting heavy and head drops but your brain is still very active, so you wake up even at the slightest noise. If you’ve ever dozed off while watching TV and missed a few minutes of your favorite show, then you know Stage 1 Sleep very well (1 – 7 minutes).
- Stage 2 Sleep: Your brain activity is a lot slower right now. In this stage, your eyes stop moving and the brain starts slowing down (10 – 25 minutes).
- Stage 3 Sleep: The EEG reveals that the brain is still producing delta waves occasionally but that they very small. This stage is often called the moderate sleep phase (20 – 40 minutes).
- Stage 4 Sleep: This stage is the deep sleep stage. Someone in the middle of stage 4 sleep is very hard to wake up. The brain continues producing delta waves and stage 4 sleepers usually have completely relaxed muscles, slower rhythmic breathing and may snore. Waking someone up during stage 4 sleep will result in them feeling disoriented for a few minutes. If you’ve ever woken someone up while they were snoring, then you know this all too well (20 – 40 minutes).
- Stage 5 Sleep (REM Sleep): In this stage, you start dreaming and brain electrical activity is elevated. Body muscles are paralyzed temporarily and eye movement increases, which gives the stage its name – rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (10 – 60 minutes).
NREM. REM. Repeat.
What’s even more incredible is that these five stages of sleep repeat themselves. In the first few cycles, REM sleep (stage 5) is shorter while deep sleep (stage 4) is longer. In later cycles, REM sleep is longer while the NREM sleep (stages 1-4) are shorter.
What Happens When You Sleep?
Yes, a lot happens when you are asleep. Your sleep cycle is complex. But thankfully, you don’t have to worry about it unless you have a sleeping disorder. Are you a member of the sleepless elite? Or do you have trouble sleeping? Let us know in the comments below.