When our head hits the pillow in the evening, we all hope we will calmly and quickly drift off to sleep – but for many, this is not the case. We all want and need a good night’s sleep – it’s vital for our bodies and minds to get rest and for those that don’t get it – it can become their mission to find ways to achieve it.
When it comes to sleep – there are different stages and understanding these might help unearth why you don’t achieve those all-important forty winks.
Our bodies run on all sorts of cycles – one being the circadian rhythm which is known to be like a 24-hour clock that tells our bodies when we should be getting sleep and when we should be active and awake. There is also another rhythm named ultradian – this runs across your normal day and has peaks and troughs in energy and focus. So, when it comes to sleep it’s no surprise there are stages and patterns – many of which are easily showcased and displayed in tech or apps nowadays and the more you learn the more you might be able to see where you fall short.
Sleep Cycles Vs Sleep Stages
These two terms are often written and talked about together, but there’s a stark difference between cycles and stages of sleep.
When your head hits the pillow and you drift off to sleep, each person should go through five cycles of sleep, although some people will go through four to six, each of these cycles can take around 90 minutes to complete. Each cycle has four different stages.
Each cycle has the same stages of sleep and they all matter – but they are different in their own way.
So, in a nutshell you’ll experience the four stages of sleep between four to six times every night.
Stages of Sleep
Every time you get to sleep you go through cycles, within these cycles are four stages of sleep. Three out of the four stages are called non-REM sleep, and the fourth is named REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement which you may have heard of as it’s the stage when we all dream. Deep sleep is actually a three-step process and is the non-REM stage. As this stage progresses you fall deeper and deeper asleep.
Most of us every night will briefly wake up as we make our way through these cycles, it’s all part of a normal night’s sleep. As the morning arises many will not even remember waking, as it happens so quickly and generally, we all find it easy to drop off again.
So, what is your sleep cycle?
Stage one: Light non-REM sleep
As you drift off to sleep, this is the lightest stage of non-REM sleep. Occasionally, you may feel or notice yourself drifting off as you recall a falling sensation, or your body can jerk but usually you soon drift off back to sleep. Many of us can recite those times you’ve felt like you’ve tripped over something – this is light non-REM sleep. As you begin to transition to sleep you usually notice the following:
- Your muscles begin to relax.
- Your heart rate slows down.
- Your breathing begins to really slow down.
- Your eyes will move slowly behind your eyelids.
In this stage, your brain produces ‘alpha and theta waves’. It only lasts for around seven minutes, and this is the stage you’ll go through if you’re a lover of a ‘power nap’.
Stage two: Initial non-REM
In the second stage of sleep, you will still be in a fairly light sleep, but things begin to slow down even further:
- Your eye movements will stop.
- Your body temperature and heart rate will drop even further.
Even though some functionalities of your body are slowing down your brain will be in overdrive. You will experience a series of what’s called ‘sleep spindles’ – that is spikes of activity in your brain’s wave frequency before it slows down again.
Sleep three: Deep non-REM sleep
This is the stage of sleep that you are most unlikely to wake up in, as you’re far less reactive to things and occurrences around you – such as an alarm going off nearby. Your brain waves will be in a slow ‘delta’ state but even though everything else is pretty calm, if you’re a person that moves or wriggles in your sleep you are most likely to do this now.
In this stage your body will be doing the following:
- It will be making repairs to muscles and other tissues.
- It will be focusing on growth.
- It will be recovering immune function.
- It will be getting ready for the next day.
Next, you’ll move into a fourth stage of sleep, ‘REM sleep’ which is known for being the most restorative stage.
Stage four: REM sleep
This is the stage which is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, this is one of the most known stages as it’s when we all dream and the quick movements under your eyelids occur.
Even though you will be very much asleep, your mind behaves as if you’re awake, it’s busy and flowing with creativity. If you wake for any reason in this stage – you are most likely to remember what you were dreaming about. In stage four your brain controls your muscles so that even if you’re having the most active of dreams, your body won’t carry them out physically for your own safety.
As well as dreaming, you will experience the following:
- Your heart rate will have increased, as well as your blood pressure.
- Your will experience faster breathing.
This fourth stage of sleep is very important, and most sleep experts agree that it’s an essential part, of whereby your brain ‘sorts out’ the events that have occurred across your day. Your brain uses this stage to process the day and puts many of the events into your long-term memory.
Making sure you sleep soundly
Just like the Brits favour a good cup of tea to chat through our problems and worries – a good night’s sleep is just the same. It’s good for your memory and of course your mood. To feel tip-top we need to experience multiple cycles of sleep and all the stages within them each and every night – otherwise if your pattern is disrupted you will feel the strain quite quickly.
To do everything you can to prime yourself for a good night’s kip, keep an eye on the following:
- Make sure where you’re sleeping is calm, quiet and free from things that could wake you up or stop you from falling asleep.
- Give yourself enough time in your routine to enable a decent period of sleep – eight hours is about right – this duration will give you the best chance of going through the cycles.
- Make sure you wind down before bedtime – going from being very active to trying to get to sleep quickly is a difficult task. So, putting time aside to rest and relax ahead of bedtime is a must. From baths to reading to also exploring health and wellness products such as CBD oil – to help calm your body and mind before settling down will drastically help.
- There are certain things to avoid ahead of bedtime too – of course, stimulants are a no-go such as caffeine, alcohol and certain foods that are likely to disturb you during the night.
Once you have more of an understanding about sleep – hopefully, you may be able to get more of it. Our experts at Synerva can help match our products to alleviate the problems you’re experiencing and many can help individuals achieve a better and more quality night of sleep.