The Stages of Sleep and Why They Are Important

December 18, 2020

You know you should get the recommended hours of sleep to recharge your brain and body. But it’s essential to focus on getting high-quality sleep too.

But what does “high-quality sleep” mean?

When you sleep, you transition through four sleep cycle stages, each one a critical component to helping you to wake up feeling refreshed. For adults, high-quality sleep is at least seven uninterrupted hours with you to passing through the sleep cycle five to six times.

Since each sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes to complete, you have to do a little math to determine what time to go to sleep to feel rested. (Sorry.)

The Sleep Cycle Formula

First, determine what time you need to wake up. Then work backwards through five to six 90-minute sleep cycles and tack on 15 minutes of “falling asleep time”. Voila! You’ve got what time you need to go to bed.

Don’t hurt yourself though. Here’s a little chart to give you an idea:

In a perfect world, you should wake up at the end of a sleep cycle rather than in the middle to feel the most energized.

What Are the Stages of Sleep in a Sleep Cycle?

There are four stages of sleep in a sleep cycle. Three of these sleep stages are Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM), and the final stage is Rapid Eye Movement (REM).

*Please note: we understand the following stages may seem like an impossible rainbow unicorn of a perfect situation. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you need help sleeping due to a sleep disorder. Check out these tips to getting a better night’s sleep, they could help you out too.

Sleep Stage #1: N1 (NREM 1)

After you do responsible things like lock your doors, set your alarm, brush your teeth and put in your night guard (don’t laugh, some people need them) you snuggle up in bed. In sleep cycle stage N1, you begin to doze off, typically taking anywhere between five and fifteen minutes. Stage N1 is that grey area between awake and sleeping.

Your brain activity begins to slow and you may experience some small movements like twitching. You could wake up during N1 fairly easily, but if left uninterupted, you may move quickly into sleep stage 2.

Sleep Stage #2: N2

Man yawning

In the N2 sleep stage, your muscles begin to relax, your breathing and heartrate slows, and your body temperature drops slightly. During this stage of the sleep cycle, your brain activity also slows down to help you stay asleep, even if there’s something going on around you.

The first time your body enters N2 may be shorter than any other time during the night, ranging from 10-25 minutes.

Sleep Stage #3: N3

N3 is where the good stuff happens: quality, refreshing, restorative, wonderful sleep. As the deepest stage in the sleep cycle, your body relaxes even more and your breathing rate and pulse slow. Your brain waves also settle into an almost undistinguishable pattern. The N3 sleep stage brain waves are referred to as delta waves,. That's why this stage of the sleep cycle may also be referred to as delta sleep.

During this sleep stage is where your immune system and memory is strengthened. The first sleep cycle or two will keep you in N3 for around 20-40 minutes. As you near wake-up time, this stage becomes shorter as you begin to spend more time in the final stage of the sleep cycle.

Sleep Stage #4: REM

🎵 “This one goes out to the one I love…” 🎵

Not that REM.

REM sleep is where all the action occurs. Your brain activity picks up and your muscles experience a form of paralysis called atonia. Well, except for the muscles in charge of your eye movement. Afterall, it’s not called Rapid Eye Movement for no reason. If you’ve ever seen someone’s eyes moving quickly beneath their closed eyelids, then you’ve witnessed someone in REM sleep.

Not only do your brain waves do a little dance during this sleep stage, but this is also where you experience vivid dreams. While dreaming can occur anywhere within the sleep cycle, REM sleep is where they are the most vibrant.

Normally, you don’t enter REM sleep until roughly around 90 minutes after you enter la-la land. Early on in your sleep cycles, this stage only lasts for minutes, but as the night progresses, you spend more time in REM. Typically, you’ll spend around 25% of your night in stage four sleep.

Why You Need to Experience All Four Stages of Sleep

If you’ve ever had a newborn child or spent night after night not getting high-quality, four-stage sleep, then you know it's rough. Each sleep stage plays an important role in restoring your brain and body to optimal functioning. Getting great sleep impacts your:

  • Thinking
  • Physical Health
  • Immune System
  • Memories
  • Emotions

So, in essence, if you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, you risk becoming an immuno-comprimised, fuzzy-brained, dark-eye-circled, emotional-rollercoaster of a human being.

Sounds like no fun, right?

How to Ensure High-Quality Sleep Naturally

While there are lots of ways to prepare yourself for an excellent night’s rest (psst, take a look at the blog link we posted earlier!), there aren’t many tangible products that’ll help.

But there is one that we love: the Weighted Blanket.

You know how we mentioned that your breathing and heart rate slows as you enter the deeper stages of sleep? Well weighted blankets help you get there faster and help you stay there longer. Weighted blankets work by delivering Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS), which is a light pressure on your whole body. And DPS leads to a slowed heart rate and breathing rate.

But you have to make sure you buy a well-made weighted blanket. Not a cheap big-box-store discount option. It has to be made of high-quality materials, crafted with precision construction, and allow for optimal airflow. That way, you’ll get the most benefit from it, and you’ll get a better night’s sleep.

When you sleep under a weighted blanket, you feel like you’re wrapped in a nice, comfy (yet breathable) hug. And who wouldn’t want to sleep longer when you feeling like that?

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