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Sleep is incredibly important. The amount of sleep you get each night, and what type of sleep, can have serious implications for your overall health. What is good sleep, though? To understand that, you need to understand the stages of sleep.
When you get quality sleep, your body is able to do things such as: repair muscles; grow bones; manage hormones; and sort your memories. It’s also a time for your body to slow everything down and heal injuries or any kind of sickness, such as a cold or flu. In order to do that, your body needs to cycle through the four stages of sleep each night.
What Are the Stages of Sleep?
While there used to be some debate as to whether there were four or five stages of sleep, it was determined in 2007 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that there are just four stages of sleep. You have three stages of non-REM sleep (where REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement), before REM sleep, which is the fourth stage of sleep.
- Stage 1: This is the transition period between wakefulness and sleep. This is the time when you’re just lying down with your eyes closed and ready to drift off to sleep. Usually, this stage lasts for around 10 minutes, but could be longer if you suffer from insomnia or some other chronic sleep disorder.
- Stage 2: In the second stage, your body temperatures start to drop and your heart rate begins to slow down. Your body becomes more relaxed and you begin to fall into real sleep. This stage can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
- Stage 3: Your muscles really start to relax in stage three, while your blood pressure and breathing rate drop. Your body will start to have involuntary muscle movements (sometimes called hypnic jerks). This is a deep sleep that will last 20 to 40 minutes. Throughout the night, as you cycle through the different stages of sleep, Stage 3 will be where you spend the most time.
- Stage 4 (REM Sleep): REM sleep usually happens within an hour to an hour and a half after you’ve fallen asleep. During REM sleep, your brain becomes more active, your body becomes relaxed and immobilized, your eyes move rapidly (though they’re not sending signals to your brain during this time), and you will have vivid dreams. Your first REM sleep stage will last around 10 minutes or so, with each REM sleep cycle getting progressively longer as the night goes on.
During the night, you will cycle through these stages around four or five times a night. Sometimes you’ll go from REM sleep back to Stage 2 or, if you’re tossing and turning during the night, you could go all the way back to Stage 1 without really ever hitting REM sleep.
Is REM Sleep Important?
As we get older, the amount of non-REM sleep we get each night dwindles. When your body enters REM sleep, it’s not as deep as Stage 3 sleep due to the increased brain activity.
All of the stages of sleep are important in one way or another, but Stage 3 and REM sleep are the most important stages due to the fact most of your body’s cells repair and rebuild, and hormones are secreted to promote bone and muscle growth. Your body also uses deep sleep to strengthen your immunity so you can fight off illness and infection.
What Causes Fluctuations in Stages of Sleep?
There are many different reasons why someone could have fluctuations during their normal sleep cycle. For instance, someone who suffers from sleep apnea or diabetes might need to go to the bathroom more often during the night. Someone with insomnia might have trouble either getting to sleep or staying asleep.
Another big cause for sleep fluctuations is the quality of the mattress and pillow you sleep on each night. Do you wake up during the night with hip or back pain? Any kind of pain can hamper your ability to get restful, deep sleep. If your mattress is keeping you from getting your best night’s sleep, you owe it to yourself to get a new one.
The sleep experts at Mattress Warehouse use bedMATCH®, a patented scientific approach to finding the right mattress for you as an individual. The diagnostic sleep system takes the guesswork out of picking out the mattress you could be spending the next eight to 10 years sleeping on. Visit your nearest Mattress Warehouse today and ask a sleep expert how a new mattress can help you get deeper sleep.