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December 22, 2015
The Stages of Sleep and How to Make the Most of Them

You eat right most days. You try to exercise. However, many people forget the eight hours of shuteye that doctors recommend are vital to your health as well. Often, people will take physicians’ advice seriously when it comes to diet and exercise, but not sleep. Not getting enough sleep can lead to more than just a tired feeling. A good night’s rest boosts your immune system, increases your energy, and even influences proper eating habits. Educate yourself first, and then make sure you benefit from all the stages at night!

Stage 1 is a light stage of sleep. You are probably most aware of this stage when drifting off to sleep in front of the TV. This phase, which usually lasts about 5 to 10 minutes, is when the eyes move slowly and muscle activity slows. This is also when people feel the sensation of falling and can still wake up very easily.

Stage 2 is when eye movement stops. At this time, the brain waves begin to slow as well with occasional bursts of rapid movement in the brain. While you are still in a stage of light sleep, your body temperature drops as you get ready for deep sleep.

Stage 3 is when deep sleep really sets in. Brain waves become extremely slow. These are called delta waves and are found in between smaller faster waves. During stage 3 of the cycle, it is much harder for you to wake up from load noises or movement. If you do wake up, you will most likely feel disoriented for a few minutes.

Stage 4 is another stage of deep sleep when the brain produces only delta waves. Both stage 3 and 4 are considered deep sleep stages. During stage 4, there is no eye movement or muscle activity. However, in 2008, sleep experts eliminated stage 4 and now stages 3 and 4 are considered stage 3.

REM sleep appropriately stands for rapid eye movement. REM sleep usually begins after you have been asleep for 90 minutes. During REM sleep, your breathing, eye movement, blood pressure, and heart rate speed up. However, the arms and legs become paralyzed. This stage is also when you have intense dreams since the brain is more active.

Many don’t know that people can wake up during REM sleep even though it is the deepest, most intense stage. Sometimes, people wake only for a short time and do not remember it in the morning. Other times, people remember longer wakening periods. Adults spend about 20 percent of their time in REM sleep, compared to infants who spend 50 percent of their sleep in REM sleep. Adults spend the other half of their time in stage 2 and the other 30 percent divided between the other stages. As adults get older, they spend less and less time in REM sleep.

Recent studies have shown that not getting enough REM sleep may lead to depression. In order to get a great night’s sleep, it is important to create a routine that you stick to as much as possible. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. In addition, pay attention to what you are eating and drinking before bed. You never want to go to bed too full or hungry. It’s also important to limit daytime naps, add physical activity in your daily routine, and manage your stress levels.

Not sleeping well from time to time is normal, but chronic lack of sleep can cause aching muscles, headaches, hallucinations, clumsiness, hand tremors, irritability, memory lapse or loss, and weight gain. If this becomes a constant problem, then talk to your primary care provider about visiting the our sleep lab or contact us at 508-949-8960.

The Sleep Lab at Harrington at Webster conducts sleep studies for adults and children. The sleep lab treats insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, bruxism (teeth grinding), restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and sleep talking and walking disorders.