If you’re anything like me, you lay down to sleep thinking you’re letting your body and mind shut off to recuperate. Early 1950’s scientists thought this same way, but this isn’t actually the case. Your brain is more active then you may realize! What are the sleep stages? They are a combination of REM sleep and Non-REM sleep stages. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement.
Stage 1: After just a few minutes your body is in a very light sleep, you are slightly alert and are easily awoken. “Hypnic Jerks” are commonly known to accompany those of us with irregular sleeping patterns. These make you feel an involuntary jolting, twitching feeling that startles you awake as you are falling asleep.
Stage 2: This stage usually begins the deep sleeping process where your body is preparing for deep sleep. It does so by reducing it’s activity, decreasing your blood pressure and body temperature while slowing your heart rate. All of which will make it harder for you to be woken up. About half of our night is spend in this Stage 2 state.
These first two stages of Rapid Eye Movement are often referred to as light sleep or a “power nap”. In order to have a successful power nap, you would want to make sure you wake up after this stage. Generally that would be about a 90 minute nap.
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Stage 3 & 4: Because your body has already been through stages 1 and 2, you are now ready for deep sleep. Slower delta waves are produced by your brain and we enter the Non-REM sleep meaning no “Rapid Eye Movement”. This is our deepest level of sleep and the stage where it is the hardest to be woken up. Thankfully, we accredit this stage for the generating energy, stimulating growth/development and repair of your muscles and tissues.
Fun Fact: Adults spend roughly 20% of their time in the REM stage of sleep, whereas babies can spend up to 50% in these first two stages of sleep.
So Why Do I Feel Groggy When I Wake Up?
Although you’d think this is one long cycle, you actually go through these four stages 5-6 times on an average night. While you are in the REM sleep stages, your brain is moving learning and memory information to store in your long-term memory. The length of the REM periods also increase as the night goes on so you have a higher chance of waking up from a dream feeling less groggy and more alert. If you feel sluggish and overtired when you wake up, it can be because you woke up in a deeper stage of sleep.
Overall sleep is imperative to daily living and without it the human body cannot function properly. Nowadays our fast paced lives make it hard to make time for a full 8 hours of sleep. But if you want to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, we need to make sure our body has it’s sleep in order to function optimally.
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