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Stages of Sleep: What They Are & Why They’re Important

September 15, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — drdernick @ 5:50 pm
young woman sleeping in bed

Millions of Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The disorder interrupts your breathing while you’re asleep, meaning your brain will keep waking you up to unblock the airway. Sadly, this will interrupt the sleep cycle and prevent you from getting the full benefits of a good night’s rest. When you’re asleep, the body takes time to repair muscles, grow bones, manage hormones, and sort memories. Read along to learn about the different stages of sleep and why it’s important to complete the full cycle every night.

What Are the Stages of Sleep?

Let’s take a closer look at each stage of sleep:

Falling Asleep

This stage of non-REM sleep is the transition from wakefulness to sleep, typically only lasting a few minutes. It’s the lightest stage of sleep, meaning your body is still alert to some degree and can be awakened from outside stimuli. During this stage, eye movements begin to slow down, and your muscles become relaxed.

Light Sleep

This stage is also considered to be fairly light sleep, but your brain will start producing special waves called sleep spindles. It comprises the largest percentage of total sleep time. Your heartbeat and breathing will slow down further, you’ll no longer have eye movements, and your body temperature will drop.

Slow Wave Sleep

This final stage of non-REM sleep is where you get the deepest sleep, meaning it’s harder to be awakened. During this time, your body performs several crucial health-promoting tasks. Any muscles or tissues that were damaged during the day will be repaired. Your body will also produce protective cytokines to help the immune system and restore energy levels in the cells.

REM Stage

After a while, you’ll move on to the final stage – REM sleep. The term stands for “rapid-eye-movement” which comes from how your eyes begin to jerk in various directions. You’ll also experience a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, and somewhat irregular, shallow breathing. Since your brain will begin consolidating any new information it learned from the previous day, it’s the most important stage for memory.

The Importance of Uninterrupted Sleep

As mentioned earlier, disorders like sleep apnea can prevent you from getting a full night of rest. That means you won’t spend enough time in stages three and four of the cycle, causing your physical health and mental capabilities to suffer. If left untreated, these issues will only worsen over time.

Tips to Get Quality Rest

Here are some ways you can improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Spend time out in the sun during the day to help your body maintain a healthy circadian rhythm
  • Exercise or move your body throughout the day
  • Don’t nap for longer than 20-30 minutes
  • Limit your screen time an hour before sleeping
  • Avoid stimulants and certain foods before bed (i.e., caffeine, nicotine, alcohol)

Do you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea? Contact your sleep dentist and schedule a study. They’ll confirm the presence of a disorder and offer treatment to help you enjoy a full night of quality rest once again!

About the Author

Dr. Robert Dernick is passionate about providing patients with the highest-quality dental care possible. He graduated with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston in 1979. After years of practicing general and cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Dernick began studying sleep dentistry to help patients with sleep apnea. To learn more about his services, visit his website or call (281) 783-3419.

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