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5 Stages Of Sleep

By Andrew Hill       06/12/2018

If you’ve ever hit that morning alarm “snooze” button over and over again, hoping for a last chance at feeling rested before the day starts, you are in good company! While the goal of sleep is to replenish depleted body systems and give us refreshment and energy for the day ahead, we all know this doesn’t always happen. In this article, learn more about what actually takes place once you shut your eyes, why you may not always rest as fully as you might like and why good sleep nightly is so critical.

How Many People Don’t Sleep Well?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated one out of every three people doesn’t get sufficient sleep at night. These statistics are alarming enough for the CDC to declare insufficient sleep a public health problem. As well, these same folks tell the National Sleep Foundation that they would rate their sleep quality as “poor” or “fair” at best.

Interestingly (and perhaps alarmingly), poor quality of sleep is now highly correlated to poor quality of health. Researchers estimate that sleep apnea may be to blame for sleep disturbances in about 25 percent of adults nationwide. Most disturbingly, data indicates that while approximately 12 percent have been previously diagnosed with sleep apnea, an additional 13 percent likely remain unaware of their diagnosis or how it interrupts their sleep.

What Disturbs Sleep?

In addition to sleep apnea, which is one of the most prominent causes for sleep disturbance (among other health hazards), WebMD cites these additional potential causes for sleep disturbances:

  • Physical pain.
  • Breathing issues (sleep apnea, allergies, asthma)
  • Alcohol or caffeine use
  • Stress
  • Inhospitable sleeping environment
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Genetic predisposition (such as to sleep apnea, narcolepsy or other sleep disorders)
  • Medication
  • The natural process of aging (people generally need less sleep as they age)
What Happens While We Are Asleep?

So what actually does happen once we shut our eyes? If we are lucky, SLEEP happens. But what else is going on in there while we are otherwise occupied with snoozing? If we are sleeping correctly, as Medical Daily explains, we should pass through five sleep stages nightly. Stages one through four are what is considered N-REM, or non-rapid eye movement, sleep. Stage five is considered REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep.

These are the basics of each sleep stage:

  • Stage 1: We sleep so lightly in this stage that, if awakened, we will swear we weren’t asleep! In this stage, the goal is to quiet the brain activity and eye movement to enter a deeper stage of sleep.
  • Stage 2: In Stage 2 sleep, which is where we hang out during most of the time we are sleeping, the brain’s activity has slowed down markedly and the eyes are no longer moving.
  • Stage 3: Stage 3 is basically a precursor to Stage 4, so much so that some researchers classify them as a single stage.
  • Stage 4: Stages 4 and 5 sleep is where things typically get interesting. In Stage 4, the brain is in what researchers call slow-wave sleep. The waves are so slow that intriguing phenomenon like sleepwalking and sleep talking can occur with us being none the wiser.
  • Stage 5: Once we enter Stage 5 and REM sleep, it is like our memory has turned back on somehow. When we dream, we will likely remember our dreams. This stage of sleep is so critical to rest that the brain may play tricks on us to keep us asleep. For example, if the alarm goes off while we are in REM sleep, the brain may smoothly integrate that into whatever dream-plot is unfolding so we don’t wake up.
Why Is Sleep So Complex?

Of course, the real question now becomes – why does sleep have to be so complicated? Researchers are still working out the answers to this question and likely it will be a longer rather than a shorter process to find those answers. But what the sleep researchers of today hypothesize is that sleeping is complicated because different things happen in the brain and body during each stage.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a night of restful sleep provides us with all of the following benefits:

  • Our brain categorizes and stores information from the day just past and encodes relevant data into memory
  • New neural connections are being made and new neural pathways are forming to prepare the brain for better learning and memory in the day to come
  • The body is repairing its circulatory system, mending blood vessels and valves and ensuring organs are replenished and re-energized
  • The body is reorganizing and rebalancing hormones, including insulin, which regulates feelings of hunger and satiety, as well as critical growth and development hormones

It’s easy to see why sleep is mandatory for healthy brain and body function. An ongoing lack of high-quality sleep can negatively impact every part of our daily life and wellbeing, which is why it is critical to diagnose and treat sleep disorders. Home Sleep Delivered provides the most comfortable solutions for sleep apnea and sleep apnea testing, so that you can finally get high-quality sleep you deserve.