Sleep is not a straightforward process. You do not fall asleep and just wake up hours later. A lot is happening within your body and mind while you are asleep. From stress repair, dreams and heavy sleep, all of it happens through the various sleep stages. There are 4 stages of sleep that you go through every night. They are the drowsy stage, light sleep stage, deep sleep and REM sleep stage. From the 4 stages of sleep, the first three are often clubbed together called the non-REM (NREM) stages of sleep because they are totally different to REM sleep. All these stages of sleep differ in their own way and different processes occur within your system at these times.
Understanding the 4 stages of sleep
1. Drowsy sleep stage. The simplest and most straightforward from the 4 stages of sleep. This is the stage when you’re sleepy and wanting to fall asleep. You’re on your bed, can sense your eyes closing and drifting into a sleep. This is when your body and mind is preparing to switch off and your system has started to slow down. Your breathing is shallow, heart rate drops and you enter a resting state. This stage lasts for 10 minutes only and if you wake up during this stage, you won’t really even remember being fully asleep. Our switch off for the day audio helps you enter a deep sleep and enjoy improved sleep quality!
2. Light sleep stage. The second stage from the 4 stages of sleep is the light sleep stage and lasts for about 20 minutes. You enter a light sleep and your body has now switched off. You become less aware of your surroundings and your body temperature drops as well. Unlike the first stage, during this light sleep stage, your breathing and heart start to normalise and find a clear rhythm. You are essentially settling in your sleep pattern during this stage.
3. Deep sleep stage. The final non-REM sleep stage from the 4 stages of sleep. This stage can last for anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes. This is the time when the deepest sleep occurs. Brain waves become slow, brain activity reduces dramatically and you drift into a deep sleep. During this stage, your muscles start to relax, you become less responsive and your blood pressure lowers as well. Deep sleep has a lot of benefits for your body and mind, including stress relief and storing of memories. It is important to improve the quality of your deep sleep.
4. REM sleep. REM or rapid eye movement sleep is when your brain activity is at its highest. While it is the final stage from the 4 stages of sleep, this is actually the 5th stage of sleep. This is because after deep sleep, your body goes back into the light sleep phase before entering REM sleep. This is the stage where your brain activity is maximum, you start to dream and learning is facilitated. Your eyes start to move rapidly, your body relaxes while your brain is awake and alert. This stage lasts for only about 5-10 minutes, but becomes longer as you re-enter this stage of sleep. REM sleep is extremely important and its key to get the best REM sleep possible with simple lifestyle changes.
Once you’ve completed the REM sleep stage, you have completed one sleep cycle. After this, you will go back to stage 2, then stage 3 and then back to stage 4 on repeat until you wake up! You can take our checklists of sleep phases and cycles to assess your sleep quality!
There are many reasons why you may experience a disturbed sleep cycle, the most common ones being stress and bad lifestyle habits. It can cause oversleeping or sleep deprivation and it’s important to improve your sleep habits and sleep fast. Meditation, breathing and the food you eat can help you enjoy all the 4 stages of sleep with better sleep.
Evolve helps you sleep faster, sleep better and enjoy uninterrupted sleep cycles with a variety of joyful guided audios! The Evolve app is now live globally on Android & Apple, click here to try for free!