Most people are familiar with the basics of sleep – we know that we need it and that it’s important for our health. But what exactly happens when we sleep? What are the different stages of sleep and what do they do for us? In this article, we’ll take a look at the different stages of sleep and what they do for our bodies. We’ll also give you some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.
The four stages of sleep
Sleep is crucial for our overall health and well-being, yet most of us don’t really know what sleep does. It’s important to understand the four stages of sleep and what each one does for our bodies in order to get a good night’s rest.
- Stage 1 sleep is the lightest stage. This is when we first drift off or doze, and it typically lasts just a few minutes. During this sleep stage, eyes are closed but we’re still easily aroused by simple noises. During stage 1 sleep, the brain generates alpha and theta waves, muscles may twitch, and eyes may roll slowly behind eyelids.
- Stage 2 sleep is the next stage of our sleep cycle and is considered light sleep. During this phase, our heart and respiratory rate slows, and our body temperature lowers. We may still be aroused during this stage if noises occur. Brain wave activity slows in Stage 2 sleep; however, short bursts of activity are still observed and known as sleep spindles.
- Stage 3 sleep is when we enter the deepest stages of sleep. Our brain waves will slow down even further, generating delta waves. During this stage of sleep, physical restoration happens. The immune system is being strengthened, tissue is being repaired, and bone/muscle growth and/or repair happens. It becomes difficult to wake up out of Stage 3 sleep; however, if we do wake from Stage 3 sleep, we will experience a transient phase of mental fogginess known as sleep inertia. It may take 30 minutes to 1 hour for mental performance to improve if we wake out of Stage 3 sleep.
- REM sleep, also known as dream sleep. This stage is when we generate bursts of rapid eye movement (REM), and our brain waves are very similar to when we are awake. During REM sleep cognitive functions are addressed, which helps improve memory, learning, problem solving, creativity and emotional regulation. Paralysis occurs during REM sleep so that we don’t act out our dreams.
Tips for getting a good night’s sleep
Knowing the different stages of sleep and the benefits of a good night’s sleep is one thing, but knowing how to achieve it is another. Here are a few tips to help get you the restful night of sleep that you’re looking for:
- Create a consistent routine for yourself. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including on the weekends.
- Try to restrict your bedroom to sleeping and sex only; don’t use it for watching television, working on your laptop, exercise etc.
- Create a bedtime ritual or wind down routine that helps you relax before bedtime. Take a warm bath, read a book, listen to relaxing sounds, or do some light stretching – anything that can help your mind and body relax.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day, as both can disrupt your sleep. Caffeine can disrupt your sleep architecture while alcohol can decrease REM sleep, making both items serious disrupters of sleep.
Sleep plays an important role in our overall well-being, and having a consistent routine with the right sleep stages is key to getting the restful night of sleep that you need. If you need help improving your sleep, Delta Sleep Coaching can help! Consultations with a sleep coach are available to help get you started on improving your sleep.