Nature loves cycles. Have a look at the seasons, summer changes spring and winter comes after autumn, and this way of life goes on and on.
The same situation is with our sleep; our brain goes through the sleep cycles 5 or 6 time during the night. One sleep cycle consists of 5 stages and the whole cycle is about 90 minutes.
You may think that as soon as you go to bed, you fall asleep into a deep sleep and it lasts all night and you watch dreams all night and closer to morning time, you go back to light sleep which brings you to awakening. In reality, the sleep cycle is a lot more complicated.
stages of sleep:
Stage 1 – This stage of sleep cycle lasts about 5 minutes, your eyes are slowly moving under the eyelids and you are easily awakened.
Stage 2 – This is the first stage of true sleep, lasts about 25 minutes. Your heart rate slows and body temperature decreases.
Stage 3 – You are difficult awaken at this stage and if it happens, you cannot adjust immediately to the reality. This is the deepest stage of your sleep, at this time, blood flow directed to your muscles to restore the physical energy. The brain waves at this time are extremely slow, this waves referred as delta waves.
Stage 4 – The brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. The whole body is very still. At this stage of sleep some kids may experience bedwetting, sleepwalking or night terrors.
Stage 5 or R.E.M Sleep - About 70-80 minutes after falling asleep, you enter R.E.M sleep – Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. This is the time when you see dreams; your eyes are moving frequently, your breathing shallow and your heart rate increases. Also, at this time your arm and leg muscles are paralyzed.
Stage 3.4 and 5 are particularly important for the body. The most damaging effects of sleep deprivation are from inadequate deep sleep. It is the time when the body repair itself and builds up energy for the next day. It is vital to get quality deep sleep, but some factors may lead to poor deep sleep, such as:
- Smoking or drinking alcohol in the evening
- Working night shifts, as it is hard to get quality deep sleep during the day time
- Being woken in the middle of the sleep cycle
R.E.M. sleep is important as deep sleep, this stage is playing a key role for the mind and memory.At this time your brain consolidates all the information you have learnt during the day, forms neural connections and replenishes its supply of neurotransmitters.
To get more mind-boosting sleep, try sleeping an extra 30-40 minutes in the morning, when REM stage is longer. Make sure you get enough sleep cycles, if you get less, your body will try to get more deep sleep , at the expense of R.E.M. sleep.
How to get the most of your night sleep cycles?
Recent studies show that in order to feel refreshed, the key factor is the number of complete sleep cycles and not the length of sleep.
If we were to sleep naturally and not to be disturbed, for a example, by alarm clock or full bladder, we would wake up, on the average, after a multiple of 90 minutes: after 4.5 hours /6 hours / 7.5 hours or 9 hours.
The person who sleeps only four cycles, which adds up to 6 hours, will feel more rested than someone who slept for 8 or 10 hours and did not let the brain to finish the 90 minute cycle.
Keep in mind the sleep cycles, when you will set the alarm tonight, try setting a wake-up time that’s a multiple by 90 minutes.
For a example, if you go to bed at 10 pm, set your alarm for 5:30 (7,5 hours of sleep) instead of 6:00 or 6:30.
And you can use numerous 'Sleep Cycle Apps' to track your heart rate and sleep cycles during the night.