Everything about Sleep Cycles and the Stages of Sleep

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You may think that sleep is about resting, but your body and brain are very busy when you’re sleeping, and they need sleep cycles to operate properly.

Sleep cycles have different stages that help keep your brain and body in tune with the day/night cycle, ensuring that your body is repaired and that your memories are consolidated properly. In fact, they’re so important that if you miss even 1 stage in a cycle, your body and brain can’t function properly.

So, what happens during a sleep cycle? We’ve broken down the sleep cycles, their stages, and their functions to explain exactly what happens during each sleep cycle.

Read on to learn the science behind them and how they work to help you operate more efficiently and feel your best during the day.


What Is a Sleep Cycle

Think about the last time you slept for several hours. You went through several sleep cycles, and each of them was about 90 minutes long, but you probably weren’t aware of each cycle.

That’s normal.

Your body and brain naturally move through cycles on their own, and you don’t need to be doing anything actively to help them along.

But sleep cycles, called circadian rhythms, are internal cycles that help your body and brain regulate themselves to the 24-hour day-night cycle.

These cycles are inside of you, and they’re responsible for almost every process in your body. It helps your body to stay in tune with the world and ensures that you’re feeling alert when you need to be alert and that you’re getting a good night’s sleep when you should be sleeping.


How Sleep Cycles Work

Most sleep professionals agree that there are four stages in each sleep cycle: REM, N1, N2, and N3. The “N” in front of three of these stages stands for “Non-REM”. These stages are identified by the type of brainwaves that are recognized when you are sleeping in a lab and attached to an EEG.

Stage 1 (N1): The first stage of sleep is called the initiating stage, and it’s the lightest stage of sleep. You can easily be woken up during this stage.

Stage 2 (N2): Your body temperature drops and your heart rate and breathing slowdown in this stage. Your brain waves also start to slow down.

Stage 3 (N3): Called slow-wave sleep or delta sleep, this is the stage that is most important to growth, development, and repair. The younger you are, the more time you spend in this stage.

Stage 5 (REM): rapid eye movement stage is known mostly as the dream stage of sleep. This is also the time when your brain repairs itself, problem solves, and files memories away.


Different Stages for Different Functions

N1, N2, and N3: These three stages are responsible for helping you sleep deeply and wake up feeling refreshed.

REM: This stage is important because it helps you process new information and consolidate memories. Studies suggest that removing REM sleep from our cycle significantly reduces our ability to learn new things.



Understanding how sleep cycles work is important for everyone. It helps you appreciate how hard your body and brain work to keep you functioning. It also helps you understand why your sleep habits are important.

Sleep Better Live Better offers sleep solutions in North Vancouver that helps you get tailored solutions to your specific sleep needs. Let us help fix your sleep patterns now so you can have a good night’s sleep later. Schedule an appointment today!