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5 Stages of Sleep

5 Stages of Sleep

A good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy body and mind. It helps us to recharge and rejuvenate, allowing us to tackle the day ahead with energy and enthusiasm. But have you ever wondered what actually happens during sleep? 

Sleep is actually composed of five distinct stages, each with their own unique purpose. In this post, we’ll explore the five stages of sleep, discuss the neuroscience of sleep, and provide tips on how to get your best rest.

What Are the Five Stages of Sleep?

Sleep is divided into five stages based on the depth of sleep. It’s also important to note that sleep cycles typically last 90 minutes, and each cycle is composed of one or more of these stages.

The five phases of sleep are:

  • Stage 1 - The lightest stage of sleep, usually referred to as “drowsiness”
  • Stage 2 - A deeper stage of sleep, during which brain activity begins to slow
  • Stage 3 - A deep stage of sleep, during which brain activity is minimal
  • Stage 4 - The deepest stage of sleep, during which the body and mind are in a state of complete rest.
  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM) - The fifth and final stage of sleep, during which dreams occur

The First Stage of Sleep

The first and lightest stage of sleep is known as “drowsiness.” This stage is marked by relaxed muscles, slower breathing, and a decrease in heart rate as the drowsiness progresses.

When you first start to feel sleepy, you are likely entering this stage. It’s characterized by occasional moments of wakefulness, during which you may suddenly open your eyes or move your body. As you drift into sleep, your brain waves will switch from beta to alpha waves.

At this stage, it’s still relatively easy to wake up. Your body is just beginning to transition from wakefulness to sleep, and this transition is not yet complete. It usually only lasts a few minutes and is not considered a “true” stage of sleep.

The Second Stage of Sleep

The second stage of sleep is the first “true” stage of light sleep, during which your body and mind relax even more. Your brain wave activity will begin to lower in frequency, your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature drop, and your muscle tone may be a little tense. This stage is associated with a feeling of light drowsiness, and it is still relatively easy to wake up from this stage.

At this second stage, you may experience brief moments of wakefulness or even start to drift off into a dream-like state. 

This stage usually lasts between one to five minutes.

The Third Stage of Sleep

The third NREM stage of sleep is the stage of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep when it is most difficult to wake up. Breathing and heart rate both decrease, and your brain waves occasionally show long and slow waves called K-complexes.

This is also where your brain begins firing off its neurons, suggesting some mental activity. This neuron activity is also called sleep spindles, and is thought to play a part in memory consolidation.

This stage usually lasts around 40 minutes per cycle.

The Fourth Stage of Sleep

The fourth stage of sleep is the deepest stage of non-REM sleep, and it’s associated with a feeling of restfulness and peace. Your brain waves switch to delta waves, which remain slow in frequency but become much stronger in amplitude.

This is the stage of sleep where your body begins to repair itself, preparing for the days ahead. If you are prone to sleepwalking, this is also the stage where that will happen.

This stage usually lasts around 20 minutes per cycle.

The Fifth Stage of Sleep

The fifth and final stage of sleep is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM stage sleep is marked by an increased level of brain activity, as well as increased body movements, like twitches. 

During REM sleep, our bodies are in a state of complete rest while our minds are active. This stage of sleep is where vivid dreams occur. It is believed that REM sleep helps us consolidate memories and process emotions, as well as restore physical energy.

REM sleep usually lasts around 20 minutes per cycle.

How Can You Support High-Quality Sleep?

Getting better sleep means understanding and working with your body’s natural sleep cycles. Here are some tips on how to create healthy sleep patterns to promote all five types of sleep during the night.

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day, including on weekends. This can help you make sure you get enough sleep every night, as well as support your circadian rhythm. While short naps are okay, try not to make long naps a regular part of your schedule.
  • Block out noise and light in your bedroom. Invest in earplugs, blackout curtains, sleep masks, and a white noise machine to help promote more restful sleep.
  • Get some exercise during the day. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and get deeper sleep at night. Avoid exercising close to bedtime, as it may be harder to relax and drift off into a deep sleep.
  • Cut back on alcohol and caffeine consumption before bedtime. Both substances can interfere with sleep quality, so try avoiding them for optimal restfulness.
  • Steer clear of blue light. Eliminate electronics from the bedroom, including phones, laptops, tablets, TVs, etc., an hour before bedtime. Try to also limit stressful stimuli before bed.
  • Try your best to relax. Practice relaxation methods like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and guided imagery before bed to help you unwind and relax.
  • Take a soothing bath. Take a warm bath or shower before bedtime, as the temperature change can help your body prepare to enter restful sleep.
  • Consider light therapy. Use light exposure therapy to naturally reset your body’s internal clock and make sure it is running on time. You can do this by getting morning sunlight exposure without sunglasses or eye protection for around 15 minutes daily.

If you have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, it’s important to consult a doctor for treatment. Your doctor may use tests like an electroencephalogram (EEG) to determine a diagnosis and prescribe sleep medicines to help you get enough hours of sleep.

What Is Sleep Hygiene?

Good sleep hygiene is also important when it comes to getting your best rest. Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that can help you get the best quality of sleep. 

Here are some tips on how to develop good sleep hygiene:

  • Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark.
  • Make sure your mattress and pillows provide the right amount of support.
  • Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t force it. Get up and do something relaxing until the feeling of sleepiness returns.

Pro Tip: Can’t sleep? Try Sleeping Beauty. This snoozy supplement is made with natural ingredients like melatonin, valerian root, and magnesium to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.* Simply take one or two capsules before bed, and wait for sleep to come.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is a complex process that is composed of five distinct stages. Knowing the different stages of sleep can help ensure that you get your best rest. 

Practicing good sleep hygiene and creating a relaxing bedtime routine can also make a big difference in your quality of sleep. By taking the time to understand the mysteries of sleep, you can take control of your sleep and reap the rewards.

At Love Wellness, we know how important a good night’s rest is — that’s why we created Sleeping Beauty, a more natural way to get your best sleep. 


Stages of Sleep: What Happens in a Sleep Cycle | Sleep Foundation

What Is Sleep Hygiene? | Sleep Foundation

Physiology, Sleep Stages - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf

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