Who hasn’t experienced it: Sometimes you lie in bed for hours and just can’t get to sleep. What role the different sleep phases play and how you can influence them, you can find out here
Table of contents
What Is A Sleep Phase?
Sleep onset phase, light sleep phase, deep sleep and REM phase – our sleep is determined by a fixed rhythm. Each of these phases can be recognized by typical brain wave patterns. However, we do not even notice these phases. This process takes place subconsciously.
In the different sleep phases your brain processes a large part of what you have experienced during the day. Our body regenerates both physically and mentally. During the night, the brain unconsciously processes information and stores it in long-term memory.
Lack of sleep or sleep disorders interrupt this process. For this reason, too little sleep makes you feel not only mentally but also physically exhausted. In fact, the quality of sleep determines whether or not we feel well-rested the next morning. Five sleep phases ensure healthy and restful sleep.
What Are The Types Of Sleep Stages?
There are different stages of sleep that repeat every night. When we experience healthy sleep, there is a smooth transition between these sleep stages. In total, these sleep stages make up a sleep cycle that lasts about 90 minutes.
Depending on how long you sleep, this sleep cycle is repeated several times. On average, we experience about four to seven sleep cycles during the night. Basically, the sleep phases can be distinguished between REM phases and non-REM phases. You can read more about this here.
Sleep Onset Ohase (Non-REM Phase)
The fall asleep phase describes, as the name suggests, the phase in which we fall asleep and also for a few minutes afterwards. In the first sleep phase, our body relaxes until we slowly drift off to sleep.
Our brain switches to a kind of rest mode and muscle activity also decreases. Surely you know the feeling of falling just before falling asleep. The reason for this is that your brain often comes to rest before your muscles do.
Sleep in the phase of falling asleep is very light. It can therefore quickly happen that even small disturbing factors such as noises or light wake us up again.
Light Sleep Phase (Non-REM Phase)
The light sleep phase immediately follows the falling asleep phase. In this sleep phase, the body continues to relax. In addition to the reduction of muscle activity, the pulse or heart rate also slows down. The body temperature also drops somewhat.
As you already know, a sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. The light sleep phase takes up about 30 to 60 minutes of that. In other words: During the entire sleep, we are in the light sleep phase for almost half of it.
Already in this sleep phase, the brain begins to process information. As in the falling asleep phase, this phase is still very easy to interrupt. As before, small stimuli or disturbances can wake you up again.
Deep Sleep Phase (Non-REM Phase)
Did you know that the deep sleep phase is the most restful and the most important sleep phase not only from a psychological but also from a physical point of view? It is therefore of particular importance for healthy sleep. Additionally, it can be divided into two phases.
- Phase of medium deep sleep.
- Phase of deep sleep.
In this phase of sleep we sleep especially deeply and soundly. Therefore, it is also difficult to be awakened in this phase. If we are awakened unexpectedly in this phase, we initially feel somewhat dizzy and have to come to ourselves first.
In this sleep phase, sleepwalking or talking during sleep may also occur. The deep sleep phase is the sleep phase in which your body is deeply relaxed. Breathing is still rhythmic and muscle and brain activity are kept to a minimum.
Your body is in a stand-by mode during this time. Breathing and heart rates continue to slow down and your body temperature has also dropped.
Dream Sleep (REM Phase)
The abbreviation REM comes from the English word “rapid eye movement”. This refers to rapid eye movements under closed eyelids. These are characteristic of this sleep phase.
In the so-called REM phase, we dream particularly intensively and also for the longest time. Scientists assume that not only information but also emotional sensory impressions are processed in this sleep phase.
In the REM phase, the muscles of your body are almost completely motionless. This is a protective mechanism: the dreamed movements are not actually executed. The dream phase also accelerates the brain frequency.
How Do Sleep Cycles Change Overnight?
Every night, the different sleep phases repeat themselves and thus result in a sleep cycle. You can imagine it like a staircase: From the falling asleep phase to the light sleep phase, then to the deep sleep phase and finally to the dream phase.
The first sleep cycle can include a particularly long deep sleep phase. This can last up to an hour on average. However, there are also short REM phases of about 10 minutes.
During sleep, however, this ratio changes: the deep sleep phases become shorter and the REM phases longer and longer. Already from about the 3rd sleep cycle, there is hardly any deep sleep phase, but instead all the more REM sleep phases.
The individual sleep phases are divided as follows:
- Falling asleep phases: 4-6%.
- Light sleep phases: 45-55%.
- Medium-deep sleep: 4-6%.
- Deep sleep: 12-15.
- REM sleep/dream sleep: 20-25%.
Is It Bad If Sleep Phases Are Disturbed?
It is perfectly normal to wake up for a few minutes within sleep phases. Most people wake up about 10-30 times during the night without really remembering it. Occasional waking up, however, has no effect on a healthy sleep rhythm.
However, it is different in the case of sleep disorders. These prevent the individual sleep phases from following each other unhindered.
Tips For Healthy Sleep
Healthy and restful sleep is important for your health – that’s for sure. To support your sleep optimally, you can pay attention to these tips:
- Make sure you have a high-quality mattress.
- A comfortable temperature while sleeping.
- Sleep rituals (e.g. reading, drinking a delicious tea).
- Eat healthy food.
- Light exercise before going to bed.
Sleep Stages And Healthy Sleep: Conclusion
Healthy sleep refers to the seamless transition of each sleep phase. As you learned in this article, the deep sleep phase is most important for your body to recover.
If you often feel unrested or exhausted, or suffer from constant fatigue, you may be affected by sleep disorders. To avoid this, you can use the tips in the article. If your sleep does not improve, you can ask your doctor for advice.