What are sleep cycles?

What are sleep cycles? When is it better to wake up? Why afternoon napping may be dangerous? Find out many important facts in this article!

person sleeps

Each sleep cycle consists of several different stages of non-REM and REM sleep. In the beginning, all people have a non-REM sleep. After that, there is a shorter period of REM sleep, and then the cycle starts over again. Interesting to know, that we only can see dreams during the REM sleep. Let’s discuss all stages of each cycle in details.

men sleeping

Non-REM sleep

During this period, your body builds muscles and bones, repairs and regrows tissues and strengthens your immune system. The long non-REM sleep is more important for the younger people, because when people get older, they need less deep sleep and the time spans of sleep become shorter.

Non-REM sleep

The non-REM sleep has three stages, each of which lasts about five to fifteen minutes. Evert person must go all these three phases before falling into REM sleep.

Phase 1. This phase lasts for about five to ten minutes. The main characteristic of it is that it is easy to wake you up, even though your eyes are closed.

Phase 2.  During this stage, your body temperature drops and heart rate slows down. This is the light sleep, and your body starts its preparation for the deep sleep.

Phase 3. This is the stage of a deep sleep. If you try to wake up, it will be very hard for you. And if you finally wake up, you will feel totally disoriented.

non REM sleep

After ninety minutes of the non-REM stage, the REM sleeps starts.

REM sleep

There are no specific stages in REM sleep cycle. The first period of it lasts for about ten minutes. The following periods are getting longer, and the last one may last for about one hour. The brain is more active during this cycle; therefore, we usually have intense dreams. The breathing and heart rate fastens.

child sleep

As it is in the non-REM sleep, younger people need more of REM sleep. For example, babies spend about 50% of the whole sleep in the REM-stage in comparison to only 20% of adults.

READ ALSO: What are the best sleeping positions?

How does it work?

Sleep progresses in a series of four or five more or less regular sleep cycles of non-REM and REM sleep throughout the night. Each cycle follows the three stages of non-REM sleep. After that, there is one period of deep sleep, after which you again back through the stages of non-REM sleep. Then, instead of waking, the sleeper may enter a short period of REM sleep, before going back through the three stages of non-REM sleep in a new cycle.

How does it work?

Is daytime napping good?

In many countries, daytime sleep is essential and is built into the daily routine. For example, in Spain, as in some other countries, there is siesta. This is kind of daytime napping, which lasts for about two hours and many shops and organizations are closed.  Afternoon napping also usually occurs after a heavy meal during the warmest period of the day.

the non-REM stage,

Afternoon naps often last from half an hour to one hour, because if it lasts longer, there is a risk to fall into a deep sleep. Experts claim that napping can is the best way to recover for people who do not sleep well at night. Many people feel better and can stay awake longer. 

However, if people who have insomnia will sleep in the afternoon,their nighttime sleep problem can worsen. So this is very individual. If you feel good when you have afternoon napping, you should have it, if not, don’t do it.

daytime sleep

What happens if you don’t sleep well?

Each sleep phase in every particular sleep cycle fulfills certain neurological and physiological function. Each of them is necessary for the health of the body and mind. If some stages are missing or if the sleep is interrupted, their physiological functions are not fully executed, and the person will feel tired. Even though the sleep was long.

daytime napping

Recently, special alarm clocks appeared on the market. These clocks can monitor sleep stages and cycles and only wake you up during the period of the light sleep.  Also, there are special apps which have the same functions. Watch the video below to learn more about them. 

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