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Sleep Cycle


During the night, your sleep follows a predictable pattern, moving back and forth between deep restorative sleep (deep sleep) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Non-REM (NREM) sleep consists of three stages of sleep, each deeper than the last, while REM sleep is when you are actively dreaming. In order to get the sufficient rest you need, your body requires four to five undisturbed sleep cycles lasting about 90 and 120 minutes each. While the quantity of sleep is important, the quality of sleep is just as crucial. A good sleep environment where you are undisturbed by movement, helps ensure your sleep cycle is not disrupted and you get the proper rest you need.

Sleep Cycle
This is the first stage of sleep cycles, the period between wakefulness and sleeping. As we fall asleep, this period is the time when we are most easily awoken. The shift from alpha waves to theta waves - the brain waves associated with early sleep - is a gradual one. Stage one of sleep is characteristically light and generally lasts about ten minutes.

Light Sleep
This is the second stage of sleep cycles. We lose our wakefulness as our body prepares to go to a deeper stage of sleep. During this sleep stage, the theta waves of stage one continue, but are interrupted by sleep spindles. The defining characteristic of sleep stage two, sleep spindles are short bursts of increased frequency in the brain wave pattern.

Both stage one and two are considered to be light sleep. During these stages, the sleeping person is easily roused, and once awake, he or she might not be aware of having slept.

Deep Sleep
This is the third and fourth stages of sleep cycles. Our body is revitalized and undergoes renewal at this stage. Stages three and four are marked by the onset of delta waves and are often referred to collectively as delta sleep.

This is the deepest phase of sleep, in which rousing the sleeping person is most difficult. Lowest in frequency and highest in amplitude, delta waves are least similar to waking brain activity. If roused during delta sleep, most people are disorientated and confused, and most likely to fall back into sleep.

REM (Rapid-eye-movement)
REM sleep, the fifth stage of sleep is probably the most well known stage of the sleep cycle. REM sleep is characterized by the quick movements of our eyes. Some studies believe this is the period when the brain is repairing itself. After finishing stage four of the sleep cycle, you gradually return to near-wakefulness. However, instead of waking up or beginning again at stage one, you move into active sleep.

During REM sleep, brain wave patterns are similar to those seen in relaxed wakefulness. REM sleep includes most of the dreaming that takes place during the night, and is thought to play a role in memory and in the brain development of children.