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what are the 5 stages of sleep and how do they benefit us?

Your body cycles through many stages of sleep, multiple times each night. Here’s how to maximize the benefits of each – and wake up rested and restored come morning.

We all need sleep. It is an essential human function that helps our body self-regulate, regenerate and restore. It helps keep diseases at bay, reduces stress levels and keeps your brain functioning at top capacity. Plus, it just feels good.

But while sleep is a natural phase of daily life, its surprisingly complex. Over the course of the night, your body goes through many stages of sleep, repeating the pattern numerous times to fuel your body and mind. These are the 5 stages of sleep — and their benefits.

the benefits of sleep

Good sleep is essential to good health. There is no work-around for a lack of sleep, or even consistently poor sleep. Although scientists are still learning about the mental and physical benefits of sleep, they know that sleep plays an important role in immune function, metabolism, memory, and learning as well as other vital functions.


Stages 1 and 2: Light Sleep

In Stage 1 of sleep, you drift out of consciousness. As your brain activity slows, you become unaware of what is going on around you. Your breathing and heart rate also slow, and your blood pressure and body temperature drop. Although your muscles are relaxed, your eyelids may flutter a bit.

It is all too easy to be awakened during the first stage of sleep. Just the slightest noise or touch could bring you back to consciousness. This is the stage where you might get that odd sensation that you’re falling, ending with your body jerking awake.

The first stage of sleep lasts between 1 and 10 minutes, depending how tired you are. After that, your body slips into Stage 2.

In Stage 2, your body activity and metabolic functions will slow further, your brain activity continues to decrease, and your muscles relax so much that you may begin snoring at this stage.

As your body transitions toward deep sleep, it’s slightly more difficult to be awakened. However, if you do wake, you will be instantly alert. (This is the ideal sleep stage for daytime naps.)

how much sleep do you really need?

Ideally, you should sleep long enough to pass through all five stages of sleep several times during the night. For the average person, that means sleeping for seven to nine hours. However, your personal sleep needs may vary so experiment with your bedtime. Your goal should be to wake up at the same time each day, feeling refreshed. If that’s not happening, move your bedtime up by 10 minutes each night until you feel sufficiently rested.

Stages 3 and 4: Deep Sleep

After around 30 to 45 minutes of light sleep, you’ll enter deep sleep, or Stage 3, followed by deeper sleep, or Stage 4. Sometimes, the third and fourth stages of sleep are lumped together in a single stage called Slow Wave Sleep, because your brain waves slow down further at this point.

In this stage, few things will wake you. In fact, some studies have found that during this stage some people can sleep through noises above 100 decibels—think of a live rock concert, or a clap of thunder. If you are awakened, you will likely feel disoriented for several minutes.

As your muscles relax further, sleep-related breathing troubles like sleep apnea can set in. Additionally, other sleep disorders can occur during the deep sleep of Stages 3 and 4, including sleepwalking, night terrors and sleep talking.

Stage 5: Rapid Eye Movement (REM)

Your body naturally moves into REM when it has had enough deep sleep. REM sleep typically occurs 70-90 minutes after you fall asleep, and over the course of the night can make up to 25% of your overall sleep. During REM sleep, your brain activity increases, reaching the same level as when you’re awake. Your eyes also move rapidly in different directions—earning this stage of sleep its name.

This is also the stage of sleep where dreams occur. You’ll typically have four to six cycles of REM sleep every night—which means you likely have four to six dreams every night, even if you don’t remember them all. You’re more likely to recall a dream if you wake during the REM sleep stage. In REM, your breathing and heart rate may increase—but the rest of your body is paralyzed in a sleep state. Scientists believe that this body paralysis protects you from moving your body in a subconscious attempt to act out your dreams.

Babies spend half their sleep in REM stage. As we get older, REM sleep decreases: It accounts for 20 to 25 percent of total rest for adults, and even less for the elderly.

how long should you nap?

Good sleep habits are crucial to your mental and physical health. Aim for 7 or more hours a night, and create a soothing bedtime ritual, such as taking an all-natural supplement on the occasions you need it. RECHARGE HEALTH Blissful Sleep contains magnesium, l-theanine, valerian root extract and other organic herbs to promote a good night’s rest.

Multiple Sleep Cycles

You don’t just pass through each stage of sleep once but multiple times, totaling around four or five cycles each night. In the first cycle, you’ll have a short, light sleep before you move into deep sleep. You’ll stay there for some time before reaching REM sleep—which typically lasts about 10 minutes during the first cycle. In the second cycle, you’ll have a little more light sleep, slightly less deep sleep, and more REM sleep. Each subsequent cycle will continue with this pattern: increasing in light sleep stages, decreasing in deep sleep, and increasing in REM sleep until reaching up to an hour.

Tips for an Optimal Sleep Environment

Knowing the stages of sleep and their benefits can help you prioritize your slumber, which in turn can keep you feeling healthy, happy and balanced. Here are tips for how to set up your sleeping area so you can get the best sleep possible:

  • Keep your bedroom temperature cool
  • Limit ambient light and leave devices in another room
  • Before bed, limit physical activity and alcohol
  • Drink a warm, non-caffeinated beverage
  • Try an all-natural supplement like Blissful Sleep, which contains magnesium, l-theanine, valerian root extract and other herbs that have been used for thousands of years to promote a good night’s rest.