Sleep Cycles: The 4 stages of sleep your body needs tonight!

  • Written by Candice Meisels

When you sleep, your body is probably working harder than at any other time during the day or night

Cheryl, The Sleep Coach explains why each one is so important.

"Imagine you're taking it easy when you're tucked up in bed every night?

Sleeping soundly without a care in the world?

Sorry to shatter your illusions, but your body is probably working harder than at any other time during the day or night. In fact, it's going through four very distinct sleep stages that are vital for our wellbeing. And because our bodies are so clever and well designed, while some are important for our mental and brain health, others are like a recovery gym session for our physical selves!"

stage 1: N1 or non-REM 1
This stage is the transition time between being awake and falling asleep when we're in a light sleep with no rapid eye movement. It's the stage that people drift into when they catnap. It lasts around five to ten minutes at a time and is light and easy to wake up from. If measured, during this time our brainwave activity would show a relaxed state with occasional alpha and theta waves. This means our minds are still somewhat alert, we might have dreams but also be aware of our surroundings and any noise or activity going on.
stage 2: N2 or non-REM 2
During this time, our body is preparing itself for the later and more restorative sleep stage. Our breathing, heart rate and other body functions slow. Body temperature and blood pressure drops. Brainwaves lengthen and our body goes through something known as 'sleep spindles'.
This is when our brain activity peaks, making it an essential time for memory formation and learning.
Although we spend around fifty per cent of our sleep time in stage 2 sleep altogether, the actual time spent in this stage is around 20 minutes per cycle. While it's still a light sleep, it is harder to wake someone in this stage of sleep than during stage 1.
stage 3: N3 or deep sleep, non-REM 3
We spend a quarter of our sleeping state in stage 3 which kicks in about 40 minutes after we fall asleep. Scientists now include what used to be stage 4 in this stage. During this time - which ranges from 45 to 90 minutes - our brains produce long, slow waves called delta waves. A person asleep won't be woken easily.
This is when we're almost frozen in sleep and completely oblivious to outside noise, light, sounds or movement. Our heartbeat and breathing is at its lowest levels while our body heals itself by releasing human growth hormone which plays an important role in cellular repair. Our immune systems are strengthened, injuries healed, muscles (and in children, bones) grow, tissue is repaired or regrown and built up waste products are flushed away.
This is what leaves us feeling refreshed the next morning and brains ready for another day of thinking and learning. The deepest sleep occurs in the first two cycles of this stage 3 sleep and as our bodies continue through the whole sleep cycle again, the time we spend in it shortens.
Interestingly the amount of N3 sleep we get decreases with age. Elderly people have very little N3 sleep whereas very young children spend most of their sleeping time in this stage. If we're woken at this point, we'll probably be very disorientated. It's also the stage during which people with sleep disorders will sleepwalk, wet the bed or have night terrors.
stage 4: N4 or REM sleep
On average, we enter into this active stage of sleep about 90 minutes after first falling asleep and we remain in it for about an hour. In one night, adults experience around five or six REM sleep cycles and this is when we dream the most. This stage becomes longer as the night goes on.
As the name - rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep - suggests, our closed eyes move around a lot during this stage. This is because our brain is active. At the same time, our body temperature is at its lowest, breathing becomes rapid and irregular and heart and blood pressure increase. But conversely, arms and leg muscles experience a sort of paralysis that keeps us from acting out our dreams.

This is the stage that stimulates the part of the brain associated with learning and processing emotional responses. If you want to remember something, get to grips with a problem that's been bugging you or work through a difficult and emotional issue, REM sleep is what you need. Some experts say it's the most important sleep stage.

And if you don't get enough of it, you could struggle with memory problems, mood swings, mental health issues, impaired immunity and problems concentrating.
So, tomorrow morning, when you wake up from a hopefully refreshing sleep, give yourself a pat on the back for a good night's work.


Independent Candidate for the Seat of Gippsland East, Matt Stephenson

MATT STEPHENSON TO GO INTO THE RING WITH BULL A sixth generation East Gippslander is “throwing his hat in the ring” to challenge Tim Bull at the forthcoming state elections. As an aspiring Independen...

Malcolm Turnbull press conference with the Minister for the Environment and Energy

Well the Party Room today has today overwhelmingly supported the National Energy Guarantee, and as a consequence, we are one step closer to cheaper and more reliable energy. This policy is part of ...

Independent Parliamentary Budget Office exposes Shorten's lies

Bill Shorten's false claims about so-called insecure work lie in tatters today, following an analysis published by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).  The PBO’s independent analysis...

Business News

3 Tips for Better Management

Running your own team, whether it’s the whole business or simply one department, means making sure that you are a good manager. Being a manager is a lot harder than many people assume, and often mea...

Research reveals the avoidable task 92% of people and businesses are wasting time on

New research commissioned by Zoom2u, an innovative platform that provides radically fast and reliable deliveries, reveals that despite massive tech advancements in the delivery space, 92% of Austral...

JB Hi-Fi battles on despite Amazon

Expected to be one of the most vulnerable companies amid Amazon Australia’s arrival, an emboldened JB Hi-Fi has posted an increase in revenue of 21.8% over 2017-18, to total $6,854.3 million. The gr...


AYANA Komodo Resort, Waecicu Beach

  20 August Sydney, Australia – 15 September 2018 marks the launch of the first and only 5-star resort on the island of Flores, AYANA Komodo Resort, Waecicu Beach by AYANA Hotels. Alongside the spe...

Discovering South Australia

Hey there! Have you ever thought about visiting Australia? Just imagine road tripping in a Winnebago with your family in tow and enjoying the beauty of the Down Under. If you have never enjoyed visi...

Lake Macquarie for an adventure to match every budget

Explore the environs of Australia’s largest saltwater lake on a shoestring and still have a blast If your tastes for travel out weight your wallet, and low cost or no cost activities are what you ...

You might also like