The 5 Stages of Your Sleep Cycle

“Sleep more!” “Sleep better!” We can sometimes feel bombarded by these demands to get a better night’s rest. But, how much do we know about what happens when we sleep?

For example, did you know that there are 5 distinct stages of sleep? Read on for more incredible facts about what your brain is getting up to while you’re grabbing some shut-eye:

Stage One- Just on the brink of sleep.

This is the stage where you are transitioning between being awake and asleep. You can feel yourself drifting off, but you’re not quite there yet. It is also the stage just before you wake up.

Interestingly, when you’re in this stage, you can sometimes feel like you’re falling or hear someone shouting your name really clearly. This is called a ‘hypnagogic hallucination’.

Stage Two - Systems check

In stage two, your brain runs something called ‘sleep spindles’ which are brief moments of increased brain activity. Scientists think that this happens for one of three reasons:

  1. It’s your brain checking all your neurons are doing OK
  2. Your brain is processing today’s information and putting it in storage
  3. It’s like ‘white noise’. These bursts of activity stop you from waking up from a sudden, unexpected noise.

From there, we have…

Stage Three - So very nearly asleep…

At this point, you’re getting so much closer to falling into a lovely deep sleep. Your brain is slowing down… my eyelids are so heavy right now…

Stage Four - Goodnight everyone

Stage four is the deep sleep stage. Your brain has slowed right down, there’s barely activity up in that noggin’ of yours. You are out for the count… for about half an hour. Deep sleep doesn’t last nearly as long as we wish it did…

Stage Five - The stage for Shiny Happy People

This is the R.E.M. stage (see what I did there?) or the 'Rapid Eye Movement' cycle. Your brain suddenly kicks into high gear like an excitable puppy. Your brain protects your body from kicking into action by limiting voluntary muscles (such as wagging my tail!).

R.E.M. is the dream stage, with all that flurry of activity, your brain is like a cinema playing all your memories, hopes and dreams.

It’s not as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...

As you’re falling asleep, your brain doesn’t just do a countdown and then you’re asleep. It cycles between these stages in whatever order is necessary on the night.

It starts at 1, then 2, 3, 4… zzz… 4, 3, 2, 3……. 4, 5……………… Night night……