The Phases of Sleep

phases of sleep

Sleep is something that we do for almost half of our lives, yet the average person does not know what is happening when they sleep. We have all suffered from restless nights and waking up multiple times. Before learning about the basic processes of the brain and body when asleep, I felt helpless. Knowing the phases of sleep and falling asleep can help us understand what we can do to get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling rested.

First, a lot of people have bad nighttime habits before bed and this leads to trouble entering Phase 1. Before getting into the details of Phase 1 I will go over good habits to have and ways to prepare for sleep.

Pre-sleep Phase for the Brain

In order to properly prepare for bedtime, we should understand that it is about getting the body and the brain ready for sleep. Preparing the brain is the most important out of the two. To do this, there are 3 main steps; maintain a sleep schedule, limit light, and relax your mind. 

Maintaining a sleep schedule is probably the most important of the 3. The brain learns from patterns and routines. Whenever there is a tight schedule, the brain will then be ready and even start saying, “let’s sleep” a little bit before the planned time. Naps should (unfortunately) be avoided so the sleep schedule does not get disrupted. 

Limiting light produces melatonin in the brain and that is what gives us that tired feeling and prepares our brain for sleep. When using phones or having bright lights on before bed, our body does not release as much melatonin. Then when there is no light, it is as if we are trying to slam the brakes on a fast-moving car, the brain is just not ready to stop and sleep. 

Relaxing the mind is a good way to get well rested sleep and not just long sleep. Everyone has experienced those pestering thoughts about the day’s stress or tomorrow’s worries. When relaxing the mind before sleep, the brain is distracted and calmed in order to enter Phase 1. Reading books, meditating, or listening to relaxing music or sounds before bed is great for relaxation. 

Pre-sleep Phase for the Body

Of all the phases of sleep, preparing the body for bed is the easiest. Yes, activities throughout the day (which I will write about in other blogs), such as being active, eating healthy, and avoiding caffeine can benefit sleep. Although, focusing specifically on right before sleep, there are a few crucial things that will help. 

Lowering the temperature in the room is very helpful in relaxing the body and even getting comfortable faster. The perfect temperature is said to be around 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Some sleep experts even say that warm showers or baths before bed help speed up the temperature change and will cool down the body faster.

Another key element for great sleep is comfort. If you do not love your mattress, maybe it is time to try another mattress! Waking up stiff or too hot or just not comfortable should let you know that something might need to be changed in order to have your body be comfortable for sleep. 

Phase 1 – Non REM  

Phase 1 or Non REM, which stands for non-rapid eye movement, is the first phase in the sleep cycle and is defined by rather restless, light sleep. In this phase, our brain is slowing down and producing less brain activity. Phase 1 typically lasts 5-10 minutes. This is also the phase where it is easiest to be woken up.

Ever abruptly woken up right after going to sleep? Those jerks are hypnagogic hallucinations that disturb our sleep because in this stage, our sleep is not yet deep. 

Phase 2 – Non REM  

The second of the phases of sleep is where we spend most of our time asleep. Most functions slow down in this phase; heart rate, body temperature and, our awareness. Despite how it might seem, our brain activity has rhythmic spikes during this period. This whole phase can last for around 20 minutes of the cycle. 

Phase 3 – Non REM  

Phase 3 is similar to other phases of sleep, but just deeper. This is the phase where it is most common to sleepwalk, sleep talk or even wet the bed. This is because the body is even less responsive to the environment during this period of the sleep cycle. Phase 3 lasts around 30 minutes of the cycle.

Phase 4 – REM  

The fourth phase or REM sleep does not always come right after Phase 3. REM sleep is typically entered an hour and a half or two hours after falling asleep and after bouncing from Phase 2 to Phase 3 a couple of times. 

This phase is where all dreams and rapid eye movement happens. Our body becomes even more relaxed because of a hormone released by the brain. The brain then becomes more active and induces the rapid eye movement and increases respiration rate. When woken up during the REM phase, one would feel groggy or overly sleepy. The average human spends 20-30 minutes in REM and an average of 100 minutes per night. 

Understanding the phases of sleep and what contributes to good sleep will can help you deduce how to achieve those well rested nights we have always dreamt about. We hope you have an even more restful night’s sleep on your Emma mattress now!

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