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Stages of Sleep

The 5 Stages of Sleep

Sleeping has positive mental and physical effects on our bodies. It helps us to repair muscles, grow bones, manage hormones, sort memories and boost our cognitive capabilities. Letting your mind complete the stages of sleep is important.

While we sleep, our brain goes through 5 stages of sleep that aid in this process of repairing the body. The way our brain goes through these stages can be likened to a product on a manufacturing line. Each process is important and missing any stage of the process will affect the quality. Similarly, our body goes through a sleep cycle that contributes to a quality night’s rest. Sleep generally falls into 2 categories, rapid eye movement (REM) or non-rapid eye movement (non-REM). The non-REM sleep comprises four of the general stages, while REM has one. What are the stages of sleep?

Stage 1 of the Non-REM Sleep

This stage of non-REM sleep happens when you begin to fall asleep and generally lasts only a few minutes. During this stage, we experience our heartbeat and breathing slow down and our muscles begin to relax. In this stage, you are in a light sleep and can still be awakened by noises and other disturbances.

Stage 2 of non-REM Sleep

This next stage of non-REM sleep is a period of light sleep before you enter deep sleep, and it lasts for roughly 25 minutes. During stage 2, the heart rate and breathing decrease, the body temperature drops and the eye movements either slow or stop completely. Sleep begins to transition between cycles.

Stage 3 of non-REM Sleep

This is a deep sleep where your muscles relax and breathing slows even more. It is difficult to awaken from this stage of sleep and we may feel disoriented if an alarm or disturbance pulls you out of it.

Stage 4 of non-REM Sleep

Stages 3 and 4 of non-REM sleep are usually characterized together with stage 4 representing even deeper sleep. During this stage, brain waves slow down and it is even more difficult to wake someone. It is believed that this is where most of the benefits of sleep are experienced. Immune system boosting, tissue repair and growth along with cell regeneration occur during stage 4.

Stage 5 REM Sleep

The final stages of sleep is REM or rapid eye movement, and this is the cycle where we dream. Our eyes move rapidly and breathing and heart rate increases during this stage. Our arms and legs are paralyzed so that sleepers can’t act out their dreams. The purpose of REM sleep is to stimulate the sections of the brain that are needed for memory and learning. It usually occurs approximately 90 minutes into the sleep cycle.

Interestingly, we may cycle through these stages multiple times throughout the night and they may last for different periods depending on the individual.

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