How to Understand the Stages of Sleep

Believe it or not, sleep is not just a luxury, it is a biological necessity. Even though sleep seems to be such a restful state, it is not, and is just as much a scientific part of our bodies as the rest of us. We live in a day and age where stress is high, life is busy, and this makes sleep disturbances common. When we are experiencing sleep disturbances, we are not just experiences disturbances in a restful state. We are experiencing disturbances in a complex process that involves a series of stages. And just like any other system in our body, when one step of the process is a little out of sync, it can affect the entire system. Read here to understand the different stages of sleep we go through when our bodies are functioning in a healthy manner. If you are experiencing some sleep disturbances, understanding the stages of sleep will be important in correcting your problem.

The stages of sleep are numbered one through four, with the fifth stage being REM state. Stage 1 is quite simply the act of falling asleep. It is very light sleep, one from which you can be taken out very quickly. Your eye movements will slow down here as will your muscles. For most people, this stage only lasts two or three minutes but will last much longer if the person is suffering from sleep problems. Falling asleep is often the biggest trouble, and it is important that you make some lifestyle changes to prepare your mind and body for falling asleep. Here you want to have a nighttime routine that relaxes you enough to slow down those muscles and eye movements.

Stage 2 is a very short sleep period as well, generally only a few minutes, and is a transition period between light and deep sleep. Stage 3 now your brain waves are going much slower, but working hard nonetheless, and Stage 3 is known as deep sleep. The long and slow delta waves will begin in your brain during this stage. Stage 4 is an even deeper period of sleep, with much more delta waves than in previous stages. Stage 4 sleep is when the unconscious activity of nighttime begins, and children that have nightmares or sleepwalking episodes will do so most likely during this stage.

REM is the next stage and where the most common occurrences of unconscious activity occur as this is the deepest stage of sleep. This stage is characterized by rapid movements of the eye, hence the name REM. In this stage, body temperature lowers, but blood pressure and heart rate will increase and even muscle paralysis in some people. Because this is the deepest sleep, it is this stage of sleep where most dreams and memories from sleep are experienced and recalled. When we experience sleep disturbances such as insomnia, typically we have an overall disruption in these stages of sleep because we can not successfully pass through the falling asleep stage. Falling asleep is the most common sleep disorder, and ensuring restful relaxing states just prior to going to bed is necessary if you are having trouble relaxing into that state. Sometimes people can not relax enough on their own, and they rely on additional resources such as Ambien or over the counter sleep aids. The benefit of medication like Ambien is that it will give you that little extra push to reach that first essential stage of sleep, falling asleep.