The first cycle is actually
our sleep/wakefulness cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.
circadian rhythm determines when our body should feel tired and when we
should feel awake, and not getting enough sleep or going to bed and
waking up at different times each day can have very negative
consequences on our circadian rhythm which can eventually lead to a
sleeping disorder such as insomnia.
to truly understand just what happens when we sleep and
why an adequate amount of uninterrupted sleep is so important, we need
to look at the actual
cycles of sleep (the process that our brain goes
through while we're sleeping).
people incorrectly believe that sleep is sleep, and that we fall
into a good, deep sleep immediately, but this is actually far from the
truth. In actuality, we go through many cycles of sleep each
sleep cycle consists of four (or five depending on which expert
you ask) different stages
of sleep, and we are at different levels of
sleep during each stage.
first three stages of sleep are known as
and the fourth stage is the REM
stage (rapid eye
movement). When you put each of these stages of sleep together, they
form one full sleep cycle.
Typically, each cycle of
sleep lasts for
around one and a half hours.
Most people will repeat
between four and six times each night.
While each cycle normally
lasts for around the same length of time (90 minutes), the actual amount of time
that we spend in each stage changes the longer we sleep. In order to
understand why sleeping the correct amount of time each night is so
important we need to look at exactly
what happens in each stage, and you will soon see that
your sleep may not be as restful as you think it is.
the first stage of sleep, you are just barely on the edge between
being asleep and awake. It should be very easy to wake you up during
this stage, and you will probably not even think you had been asleep if
awoken. While the amount of time you spend in the other stages
fluctuates, this stage stays quite constant, and you will spend around
five to ten minutes in this stage during each
second stage of sleep is the first one where you are truly asleep.
In this stage, your heart rate will slow down and your temperature will
decrease. This is also the stage that you spend most of your sleeping
time in (approximately 50%), which you will soon see is
disconcerting as your body does not do much resting or rejuvenating
during this stage of the cycle.
third stage is considered deep
sleep, which is when your body does
most of its regenerating. During this stage, your brain activity
decreases dramatically as your body directs blood away
from the brain
and to the muscles. This is extra blood flow to the muscles is actually
what is responsible for regenerating energy.
stage of sleep is
definitely the most important; however we do not actually spend much
time in it. We may spend only twenty
to thirty percent of our total
time sleeping in this rejuvenating phase, and the actual amount of time
spend in stage three decreases with each passing sleep cycle during the
final stage of sleep is REM
sleep, which is when dreams occur.
During this phase, the brain wakes back up and the eyes start to move
rapidly, hence the name rapid eye movement. The reason why children
have so much more vivid dreams than adults is because they spend up to
fifty percent of their sleeping time in this stage, while
usually only reach around
Importance of Sleep Cycles
it may seem strange that we move through these different stages
during each cycle of sleep, it is incredibly important that we receive
adequate and good quality sleep in order to complete each cycle
you suffer from a sleeping disorder or have other
sleeping issues, the body is often not
able to move into deep sleep
(3rd stage) and REM sleep, which are by far the two most important
stages. This is why it is so important to ensure that you receive
uninterrupted sleep, as any
disturbance will reset the sleep cycle and
cause you to miss time in the important final two stages.
is also why waking up to
an alarm clock can also be so
detrimental, as it causes you to wake up from the incorrect stage. If
you wake up in stage 3, you will be quite disoriented and feel like you
barely slept at all. In an ideal situation, the body should be allowed
to move back through the stages until reaching stage 1 and then waking
up from it.
reason that the final two stages of the cycle are so important is
that they are the ones where the body and mind are refreshed and
reenergized. We already stated how the body moves blood to the muscles
during stage 3 to give energy and repair damage, but REM sleep is just
as important for other reasons.
is during the REM stage that the
brain processes the images and information that you have seen and
learned during the day. This helps in storing information in our memory
and to help us remember
new things we have learned.
is also during
this stage that the brain regenerates its supply chemicals and
neurotransmitters which are also of the utmost importance.
now you can hopefully see why it is so important to sleep for the
right amount of time and get uninterrupted sleep, as your body
absolutely needs to go through the proper amount of sleep cycles in
order to be fully rested.
to Sleep Help
to the Snoring