Sleep Cycles Explained
Sleep cycles refers to your sleeping patterns throughout the night. On average, there are five sleep/wake stages. Reaching the last stage of sleep, known as the REM Sleep, or rapid eye movement is vital to dreaming and processing information from the previous day. Explore and learn about your different stages of sleep in this post.
Sleep cycles vary in length, usually between 80 - 120 minutes. How much time you spend each sleep stage changes as the night progresses. Sleep cycles also vary from person to person and night to night, based on a variety of factors including age and alcohol consumption.
Light sleep. You drift in and out of sleep, and are very easily disturbed. Your eyes move slowly and your muscle activity is slow. If you were to schedule a ‘power nap’, you would want to wake after this stage of sleep.
This stage is where your body prepares for deep sleep. Your eye movements and brave activities slow down, your body temperature drops and your heart rate slows.
You are now in deep sleep and it will be harder for you to be woken up or disturbed. Your brain produces ‘delta waves’ (extremely slow brain waves) with are intermixed with smaller, faster brain waves.
Still in deep sleep, your brain almost exclusively is producing delta waves. This stage of sleep is when the body repairs muscles and tissue, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune functions and builds energy for the next day.
REM Sleep. You usually enter this stage within 90 minutes of initially falling asleep. Your eyes are closed but rapidly move from side-to-side. This is due to intense dream and brain activity.
Heart rate and blood pressure increases, breathing becomes fast and often irregular or shallow.
REM sleep is vital for learning and memory function. During thi stage, your brain consolidates and processes information from the previous day and develops this information into your long term memory.
So, how can you have a healthier sleep cycle?
Improving your sleep hygiene is a key step for a healthy progression into each sleep stage. Achieving a more consistent sleep schedule and aligning your circadian rhythm and can be accomplished by getting natural daylight exposure, changing your drinking habits and eliminating noise and light disturbances.