What are the stages of sleep?
Sleep is far more than a process of unconsciousness in which your body and mind repairs and refreshes itself. There are distinct stages of sleep which fluctuate in cycles as the night progresses and fulfil different purposes.
Sleep isn't a valley where you descend to the bottom, stay there a while and start to climb back to wakefulness, instead, during a good night's sleep, you cycle between sleep stages as the night progresses.
Phase One - Barely asleep
This first stage of sleep is transitional and fairly short. In this phase, you're still alert enough to be easily woken, but your eye movements will slow down as you prepare to move onto the next sleep stage.
Phase Two - Light Sleep
Like the first phase. light sleep is also short and transitional. In this stage, your heart rate will slow and your body temperature will drop on your way to deeper stages of your sleep cycle.
Phase Three - Deep Sleep
After rapidly progressing through eh first two stages of sleep, you'll spend longer in deep sleep. When in deep sleep, your body enters 'maintenance mode' where bone and tissue is repaired and regrown, also energy is built up for the next day and your immune system is boosted. When in deep sleep, you're harder to wake and if you are successfully woken, you may feel disorientated for a while.
Phase Four - REM Sleep
The REM Sleep stage (or Rapid Eye Movement stage) typically takes place between one and two hours after you initially drifted off. The first time you enter REM sleep, you'll typically stay there only briefly before dropping back to deep sleep, but each time you return to REM sleep you'll stay there longer. As you'd expect Rapid Eye Movement sleep refers to the activity of your eyes beneath your eyelids which move quickly in this stage along with your breathing and heart rate which pick up at the same time to coincide with increased brain activity. REM Sleep is where dreams happen.
Which sleep stage is the most important?
While every stage of sleep is essential, stages three and four are the ones which do you the most good. Stage three repairs and rejuvenates the body while stage four is essential for brain function, concentration and mental health. To stand the best chance of spending sufficient time in these phases of sleep, a relaxing bedroom and a comfortable bed will give you the optimum opportunity to stay in stages three and four for as long as you need.