For some people, this is going to be a big surprise: but sleep isn’t just one, static state. There’s actually quite a lot that happens in your body and your brain during your nightly rest. It’s a very complex process, and it’s also one of the most important parts of what helps you survive and thrive as a human being. Without sleep – and without spending an adequate amount of time in each sleep stage – it can take a drastic toll on your health.
If you’re one of those who had no idea that your nightly sleep cycle is divided into different stages, we’re sure you have a ton of questions right now. And we are here to answer them! As a matter of fact, this article is all about the five different sleep stages of your nightly sleep cycle. We’re about to explain to you what they are, why they are important, and how much time you should be spending in each one. Get ready to take notes, because you’re about to learn some important information.
The Anatomy of the Human Sleep Cycle
So now you know that human sleep isn’t simply a binary state of either being awake or at rest. But there’s so much more to it than that. There are five different stages of sleep in total. Understanding them in deeper detail is a great way to understand why your body needs sleep, and what you can do to help yourself get that essential rest.
Each and every night, under ideal conditions, your body will cycle through the following sleep stages:
- Stage 1 – brace yourself, because the names of each stage of sleep don’t get much more creative going further. All joking aside, stage 1 is the shallowest stage of sleep. Some people may still even feel as though they’re partially awake or have vague memories about what’s going on around them. But you have to relax into stage 1 of sleep before you can progress to the deeper and more restorative stages.
- Stage 2 – stage 2 of the human sleep cycle is characterized by feeling completely unconscious. Your brain waves will also start to slow down, although you would have to hook yourself up to an EEG to really know this for sure.
- Stage 3 – stage three of your sleep cycle has a cute little pet name: slow wave sleep. This is the beginning of the deeper stages of sleep and you start to see shallower delta waves produced by the brain. This delta wave sleep is when the body takes time to restore and repair the damage it has suffered throughout the day.
- Stage 4 – stage 4 sleep is the transition phase between the beginning of your delta waves sleep and the start of your REM sleep. It’s important for there to be a transition because of how vastly different these two sleep states are. You’ll see what we mean when we take a deeper dive into REM sleep.
- Stage 5 – stage 5, like stage 3, gets its own little nickname: REM sleep. And that nickname has a nickname: paradoxical sleep. REM sleep is the stage of your sleep cycle where you experience dreams. It’s also when you process and consolidate memories.
Why Does Your Body Require So Many Sleep Stages?
This is an excellent question. Sleep is basically the debt you pay for the damage done during the day. Your body has to periodically stop and repair itself so that it can function at its best. Thousands of years of human evolution have deemed it appropriate to perform these repairs once every 24 hours after the sun sets. This is called the circadian rhythm. And believe us when we tell you that sleep is actually a very busy time for the human body!
Your Body Regulates Hormones During Sleep
Hormone regulation specifically happens during delta wave sleep. The most important hormone in the human body, human growth hormone, gets released once you hit delta sleep. Growth hormone is responsible for – you guessed – growth! That’s why it’s so important for children to get adequate amounts of sleep. It’s also important in adults in order to keep your immune system healthy, heal from injury faster, and to keep your body looking and feeling younger.
But it isn’t just HGH that your body regulates at night. Leptin and ghrelin hormones – the satiety and hunger hormones, respectively – get regulated while you sleep. If you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy, it is essential that you get proper sleep in order to regulate these hormones. When you get poor sleep, your leptin levels drop and your ghrelin levels skyrocket, causing you to feel hungry and binge on unhealthy food. For some people, the best type of diet they can go on is a better sleep diet!
The Body Loses Weight While You Sleep
Hormone regulation isn’t the only way your body loses weight while sleeping. The reason most dietitians tell you to weigh yourself first thing in the morning is because overnight, your body exhales an average of 3 to 5 lbs of water weight through respiration alone. Furthermore, getting at least 8 hours of sleep or more puts your body in a fasted state. Some nutritionists believe that eating small, frequent meals and snacking throughout the day is partly to blame for the obesity epidemic; in fact, several studies have shown that going 8 hours or more without food – like the human body must do if it is to get healthy sleep – is great for weight loss in metabolic health.
Your Body Heals Its Brain While You Sleep
Did you know that your brain cells shrink during certain stages of your sleep cycle? When your brain cells shrink, it squeezes out intracellular waste products and creates space between neurons to flush those toxins away. This helps remove things like amyloid-beta plaques which are closely associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. It also gives your brain time to process and consolidate memories during REM sleep so that you can stay sharper and maintain clear cognitive function well into old age.
Studies have shown that if you want to get healthy amounts of each stage of your sleep cycle, you should take a natural sleep aid to help your body get the best quality rest. Avinol PM has everything your body needs to spend ample and adequate amounts of time in each stage of sleep. It’ll help you get to sleep on time so that you can squeeze in your full 8 hours, it’ll help you stay asleep so that you get uninterrupted rest, and it’ll help you feel refreshed the next morning. It’s perfect for improving every single stage of your nightly sleep cycle.