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Sleep Cycles


Ahhhh sleep…. We all need it.  Some of us even love it.  Some people love it so much they sleep for 10 or more hours a night.  Others barely sleep, hoping to get back to work and beat those deadlines.  Whether you sleep 4 hours a night or 12 hours a night, we all need sleep for our mental and physical well being. 

When we sleep, we cycle through 90 minute sleep cycles where we experience different stages of sleep.  Stage 3 is where you experience your deepest and most restorative stage of sleep.  The REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage is the dreaming stage where sleep is more restless and our eye movement is very rapid.  In this post, I hope to share with you these stages and how being aware of them can help you wake up recharged and ready to go.

Stage 1:

This is obviously the first stage of sleep we enter and is the lightest stage of sleep.  This is where you feel like you are half awake and half asleep.  During this time, you can easily be awakened and can sometimes experience that falling sensation that scares us half to death.   There is some slight eye movement during this stage, but don’t confuse this with REM sleep.

Stage 2:

During Stage 2 sleep, your heart rate begins to slow down.  You are not as easily awakened as you are in Stage 1.  The eye movements stop during this phase and your body temperature begins to decrease. This is one of those middle stages where you are not in deep sleep yet, but you are past a light sleep.

Stage 3:

This stage of sleep is considered the deepest stage of sleep.  This is the most restorative stage of sleep and very difficult to be awaken from.  This is the stage where sleep walkers and people with night terrors tend to be the most active.  They say you shouldn’t wake a person during this stage of sleep who is sleep walking or having night terrors.  Simply help them back to bed.


This is the dreaming stage.  This is where you are experiencing rapid eye movement and your brain is its most active.  A person can be easily awakened during this stage and will result in the person feeling very groggy and exhausted if awakened.  REM sleep can last up to an hour before beginning with Stage 1 again.

Final Thoughts

Why is this all important?  Understanding the sleep cycles can help you plan what time you go to bed and wake up in the morning in order to wake up during one of the light sleep cycles.  Waking up during a lighter sleep cycle can result in you feeling more energized and well rested.  If you wake up during REM sleep, I am afraid you will have a rough start to your day.

Next week, we will take some advice from the book 52 Small Changes For the Mind on how to best experience sleep for more productive days.  Until then, one thing to be aware of is to time your sleep on 90 minute cycles.  In other words, simply set your alarm to wake you up at the end of a 90 minute cycle.  For example, If you go to bed at 11pm, the best times to wake up are 5am, 6:30am, and 8am.  Just make sure you wake up around the end of a sleep cycle and you are more likely to wake up rested and ready to start the day.  

Until next week, sweet dreams!!!

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