Sleep Science

What Happens During The 5 Stages Of Sleep

Have you ever wondered what happens to your brain while you're asleep?

While your brain may seem to switch off and head to dreamland once you fall asleep, it is actually busy working away to recuperate your body for the next day. Dreamers pass through 5 stages of sleep during a full night’s sleep, and each one has its individual process.

There’s a reason that the perfect amount of sleep time for adults is 7 hours – it gives your brain enough time to easily transition through the stages of sleep without disruption. Each of the stages of sleep last approximately 5 to 15 minutes. So during a good night’s sleep, you go through approximately 5-6 full sleep cycles.

This is what your brain gets up to while you’re asleep…

Stage 1

Stage 1 is a light sleep that you can easily drift in and out of. You are more susceptible to being woken during this stage of sleep. The muscle activity of the body starts to slow and the eyes move slowly.

You know when you sometimes drift off for a nap and wake up with a sudden jolt, like you’ve fallen from a height? Well it turns out that is all down to this first stage of sleep. Many people experience sudden muscle contractions in this stage.

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Stage 2

In stage 2, eye movement stops and brain waves get slower. The body temperature starts to drop and your heart rate slows as you prepare for deep sleep.

Stage 3

You are now in a deep sleep. Your brain waves are now extremely slow (called delta waves) and are interspersed with smaller, faster waves.

It’s during this stage that some people experience things such as sleep walking, talking in their sleep, bedwetting or night terrors. These are known as parasomnias and occur as a result of the transition between non-REM and REM sleep.

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Stage 4

Deep sleep continues in stage 4 but the brain waves move to exclusively delta waves. People who wake up during this stage of sleep often feel disorientated for a few minutes after. Kind of like when you wake up from a long nap and aren’t sure what century it is…

This is also when the body can repair itself, which explains why your body is in better condition after a full night’s rest.

Stage 5

You’re finally in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. The brain waves now mimic those that you have during your waking state. Your eyes remain closed but move rapidly from side to side. This could be due to the intense dream and brain activity that occurs in this stage.

Each of the stages of sleep are just as important as each other, and when you get a full night’s sleep, your body reaps the benefits. If you’re struggling to get past the first stage of sleep, why not try out one of our sleep sounds over on our Sleepiest app.

stages of sleep

Elisha Ainsley

Elisha Ainsley

Digital Content Creator
Digital Content Creator, animal lover, coffee drinker, Disney Princess gone wild. My special skills include speaking to dogs, baking terribly and knowing all of the colours of Joseph's technicolour dreamcoat.

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