What Are Sleep Stages – why they’re important

Did you know there are four stages of sleep, each one serving a different purpose?

So if you believe that you go to bed at night and fall asleep remaining inactive throughout the night, It may be evident that you are not fully aware of the whole picture.

Let’s take a look at what happens to our minds and bodies while we sleep. It’s time to step back into the classroom.

What are Sleep Cycles

According to Wikipedia, The sleep cycle is an oscillation between the slow-wave and REM (paradoxical) phases of sleep. It is sometimes called the ultradian sleep cyclesleep–dream cycle, or REM-NREM cycle, to distinguish it from the circadian sleep cycle sleep–dream cycle, or REM-NREM cycle, to distinguish it from the wakefulness. In humans, this cycle takes 70 to 110 minutes (90 ± 20 minutes).

The Stages of Sleep: Overview

Most experts believed there were five sleep stages in the sleep cycle, but in 2007 the classification of sleep stages was updated by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and it is now understood that there are four stages in the sleep cycle that represent the consensus understanding the sleep cycle.

Each stage shows distinct patterns of brain activity during sleep analysis that characterize each stage. The first three stages of non-rem are known as (NREM) sleep. The fourth stage is known as (REM) rapid eye movement.

Typically a person goes through 4 to 6 sleep cycles a night. Not all sleep cycles are the same length but on average each cycle lasts about 90 minutes. If for any reason you lose REM sleep, your body will try to make it up the next night.

type of
other namesnormal
stage 1NREMN11-5 minutes
stage 2NREMN210-60 minutes
stage 3NREMN3, Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS),
Delta Sleep, Deep Sleep
20-40 minutes
stage 4REMREM sleep10-60 minutes
sleep stages

What Happens During Each stage

Each stage serves a different function.

Stage 1

You begin drifting in and out of light sleep and your eyes are moving slowly behind closed lids. Muscle activity begins to slow down and being awakened from this stage of sleep is very easy.

At this point, you may experience a feeling of falling which can cause sudden contractions of the muscles, a phenomenon that is known as hypnic myoclonia. If you awaken from this stage it may feel as though you haven’t fallen asleep yet.

Stage 2

Also considered a light sleep stage, your body begins to prepare itself for the deep sleep stages.

Brain waves begin to slow down and eye movements stop. The heart rate slows down and your body temperature begins to drop.

Stage 3

This stage is the transition from light to deep sleep and is characterized by slow delta brain waves. Being woken in this stage of sleep may prove to be very difficult and if you are awakened it may leave you feeling disoriented for a while.

Slow-wave sleep is the deepest and most restorative sleep a person can experience and is crucial for your mind and body for the upcoming day. It is during this deep sleep that tissue repair takes place and the release of hormones necessary for growth and development occur.

Stage 4

In this stage of sleep eye movement is very rapid moving side to side and brain activity is increased which is why dreams are most common in this stage of sleep.

REM sleep usually begins after the first 90 minutes of sleep and lasts for about 10 minutes. Each cycle gets longer throughout the night. The last cycle is about an hour.

Ways of Getting More REM Sleep

REM sleep is something we can never get enough of and it’s not the easiest goal to achieve but there are perhaps a few things you can try to help achieve this.

  • Work Out Regularly This should be done in the early part of the day and not at bed time or it will be almost impossible to fall asleep.
  • Drink Plenty of Water Staying hydrated can prevent snoring, leg cramps, middle of the night thirst which all disrupt sleep. Be sure to drink your water early in the day to prevent having to empty your bladder in the middle of the night.
  • Keeping a Bedtime Routine The aim here is to set a bedtime and rise time and adhere to it. This is crucial for getting the necessary sleep cycles needed each night. Your aim is to get the recomended amount of sleep your body needs each night.


“So now you know folks”! that we should all be getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep at night and why it’s so important. Four sleep stages and four to six cycles a night I guess our minds are busy when we sleep, “who knew”?

Understanding the different stages of sleep can help us to achieve a more balanced version of ourselves and is an important key to helping us get better sleep. Our brains spend anywhere from four to six hours in NREM sleep and ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes in REM sleep.

Understanding the role each sleep stage holds in helping the body recuperate is beneficial in achieving a better restful and balanced night of sleep.

Sleeping well at night is all about practice and discipline and changing your daily habits to accommodate a restful night with plenty of NREM and REM sleep. Soon you will be on your way to sleeping like a pro and leaving you feeling more energized and ready to take on the day than ever before.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the box below and I will get back to you. Don’t forget to sign up for emails so you can be alerted of new posts or changes on this site. I wish you all sweet dreams and happier more fulfilling lives and plenty of sleep.

4 thoughts on “What Are Sleep Stages – why they’re important”

  1. This is a very interesting blog you have on sleep here! I have been having sleep issues for over 15 years now,and I am always looking out for new advice, so I will bookmark your website! The information on all the different sleep stages is very interesting as well and I will start to work out more immediately !

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article. For some reason I felt more calm as I continued reading this article haha. I was not aware that there are different stages of sleeping. That is actually very interesting. I will be sure to share this article with friends and family, I am sure that they will appreciate it 

    • Hello, Daniel, I’m glad this article was able to calm you down. I’m sure your friends and family will be glad to hear about the info here. Best wishes to you!


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