For the longest time, scientists thought sleeping was as simple as the body shutting down to recover after a long day. Nowadays, we know that there’s actually quite a lot going on while you’re getting your well-earned rest. Sleep is a multi-stage process, and completing each step is important for keeping your body and mind running at full capacity. Learn what’s happening every night while you’re asleep – and why sleep apnea in Lutz can threaten this cycle.
What are the Stages of the Sleep Cycle?
There are two distinct phases of the sleep cycle: NREM (non- rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement). The first three stages are classified as NREM while only the fourth and final stage falls under REM.
The stages are as follows:
- Stage 1: This is “light” sleep where outside stimuli can still easily wake you up. It lasts for only a few minutes; if you’ve ever nodded off only to awaken shortly afterwards, you didn’t get past this stage.
- Stage 2: This is also considered a fairly light sleep, though not quite as light as the first stage. Your brain waves slow down but may occasionally produce “sleep spindles”, which may play a role in preventing an early awakening. Stage 2 can account for roughly half of the time you spend asleep. You’ll want to awaken after this phase of sleep if you’re only taking a daytime nap.
- Stage 3: At this point, you’re in what’s considered “deep” sleep; it’s a lot harder for outside stimuli to disturb your slumber at this point. This is when damaged muscles and tissues have a chance to heal. Your immune system will strengthen itself, and your body will build up energy for the next day.
- Stage 4: REM sleep begins, causing the eyes to jerk around in different directions. This stage benefits the brain and is important for learning and memory functions. This stage is when the most dreaming takes place.
As you can see, stages 3 and 4 are particularly important for your overall health, which is why you always need a full night’s rest.
How Does Sleep Apnea Disrupt the Sleep Cycle?
You go through each of the stages in the sleep cycle sequentially; if your rest keeps getting interrupted, you won’t spend enough time in the later stages. Sleep apnea – a condition where breathing repeatedly stops and restarts – disrupts the cycle by forcing the body to wake up briefly so that the flow of air can resume. These awakenings can happen throughout the night, meaning you might barely even reach deep sleep and REM sleep.
If you’re feeling excessively drowsy during the day despite getting what you thought was a full night’s sleep, it may be a good idea to have a sleep study done to identify possible disorders. Keep your body and mind healthy and happy by making sure the sleep cycle is running smoothly!
About the Author
Dr. Jay A. Nelson has practiced general dentistry since 1981, but in recent years he’s undergone extensive training in dental sleep medicine. He’s certified to use Somnodent and other oral appliances to help patients suffering from snoring and sleep apnea get a good night’s rest. To schedule an appointment at his practice, Nelson Dentistry and Dental Sleep Medicine, visit his website or call (813) 949-0424.