In this modern world where our devices control our lives and the amount of sleep we get, we’ve forgotten how important sleep is. To make you understand its importance let us look at the sleep cycles we have.
There are two main broad types of sleep, each with its own distinct physiological, neurological and psychological features: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM or NREM) sleep, the latter of which can in turn be divided into three or four separate stages. Non-REM sleep is sometimes referred to as “quiet sleep” and REM as “active sleep”, although these are not scientific terms. Usually sleepers pass through five stages: 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These stages progress cyclically from 1 through REM then begin again with stage 1. A complete sleep cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes, with each stage lasting between 5 to 15 minutes. The first sleep cycles each night have relatively short REM sleeps and long periods of deep sleep but later in the night, REM periods lengthen and deep sleep time decreases.
- Stage 1 is light sleep where you drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. In this stage, the eyes move slowly and muscle activity slows.
- In stage 2, eye movement stops and brain waves become slower with only an occasional burst of rapid brain waves. The body begins to prepare for deep sleep.
- When a person enters stage 3, extremely slow brain waves called delta waves are interspersed with smaller, faster waves. This is deep sleep. It is during this stage that a person may experience sleepwalking, night terrors, talking during one’s sleep, and bed wetting. These behaviors are known as parasomnia, and tend to occur during the transitions between non-REM and REM sleep.
- In stage 4, deep sleep continues as the brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. People roused from this state feel disoriented for a few minutes.
- During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, brain waves mimic activity during the waking state. The eyes remain closed but move rapidly from side-to-side, perhaps related to the intense dream and brain activity that occurs during this stage.
Sleep and well-being go hand in hand, and getting a good night’s sleep is just as important to your overall health as eating well and exercising regularly. Think of your body like a factory. As you drift off to sleep, your body begins its night-shift work like healing damaged cells, boosting your immune system, recovering from the day’s activities and recharging your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day. Our behaviors during the day, and especially before bedtime, can have a major impact on your sleep. So, let us try to maintain a scheduled sleeping pattern and hence a healthy lifestyle.
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