By Eric Stengle, Founder, Family Sleep Diagnostics
When you sleep, you don’t just fall immediately into a deep sleep and then wake up in the morning. You pass through 4 stages of the sleep cycle, which is part of your body’s biological clock. During a full night’s sleep period, you should cycle through all of the various sleep stages about every 90 minutes. Understanding the sleep stages and how you should cycle through them will help you gain more awareness and understanding of your own sleep health.
- Stage 1: You begin drifting off to sleep. Within minutes of nodding off your breathing slows down, blood pressure falls, your heartbeat becomes more regular, and your eye movements slow down. The body reduces hormone and blood sugar production. This is a light sleeping stage that lasts only up to 10 minutes and during which you can be woken up quite easily.
- Stage 2: Your light state of sleeping gradually becomes a bit deeper. You experience larger brain waves with sudden bursts in frequency called sleep spindles. These spikes in brain activity are thought to play an important role in sensory processing. Your body temperature will drop, and your metabolism and blood pressure will continue to decrease. If you take a “power nap,” you will want to wake up right after this stage in order to feel refreshed without being groggy. This stage will last for up to 20 minutes.
- Stage 3: This is when you descend into the deepest period of sleep called slow wave sleep. It provides the most restorative rest throughout the night and is when you will be most difficult to wake up. Breathing rate, body temperature, and blood sugar are at their lowest levels. Your body regulates immune system function, produces growth hormones, and repairs muscle tissues. This is the most critical stage for physical health recovery. It is during this time that bed-wetters or sleepwalkers could experience an incident. Stage 3 will last for up to an hour.
- Stage 4: Rapid Eye Movement Phase. After passing through stage 3, you will enter the REM phase of the sleep cycle, also known as paradoxical sleep. Your heart and breathing rates will become irregular, the brain will be very active, and this is when you will have powerful dreams. The first rapid eye movement lasts about 10 minutes, and the REM periods will increase in duration throughout the night.
If you are having trouble sleeping or are suffering from a sleep disorder, getting a Sleep Study done at Family Sleep Diagnostics will be a very beneficial first step towards getting sleep health back on track. During an overnight stay, our experts will use comprehensive tests to record how you pass through each of these sleep cycle stages. With over 80 known sleep disorders, we will use these test results to properly diagnose you and get you on a treatment plan that really works. Feel free to reach us at Family Sleep Diagnostics to set up an appointment, or call us at (972) 714-0011.