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The Stages of Sleep

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The Stages of Sleep

February 8th, 2022

When thinking of improving our sleep, we often focus on how much sleep we’re getting. While sleep duration is important, the quality of our sleep is arguably more important. If you’re not smoothly progressing through the four stages of sleep, you won’t be able to experience truly deep sleep.

Here’s what you should know about the sleep cycle stages and how to get more deep sleep.

The four sleep stages

Throughout the night, your sleep will be made up of several sleep cycles, which are themselves composed of four individual stages. This includes one rapid eye movement (REM) stage and three non-REM (NREM) stages. You’ll typically go through 4-6 sleep cycles in a night, lasting around 90 minutes each.

Stage 1 NREM

This can be thought of as the dozing off stage, typically lasting between one and five minutes. It’s easy to wake someone up when they’re in stage 1, although if a person is enjoying high-quality sleep, they will quickly progress to the next stage of sleep.

Many people experience hypnic jerks during stage 1 of sleep, particularly if they are stressed. This will see an individual suddenly jolt awake just as they’re drifting off, which can be incredibly frustrating!

Stage 2 NREM

In stage 2, a person will experience slowed breathing, relaxed muscles and a drop in temperature. Eye movement will also stop, and brain activity will reduce.

Stage 2 sleep typically lasts between 19-25 minutes during the first sleep cycle, becoming longer with each cycle.

Stage 3 NREM

Stage 3 is often known as deep sleep. A person’s muscle tone, pulse and breathing will decrease even further, and it will be difficult to wake them up.

Stage 3 is thought to be essential for restorative sleep, as it helps to boost the immune system and promote body recovery and growth.

During the first half of the night, you’ll spend most of your time in deep sleep. Your stage 3 sleep will get shorter and shorter as the night progresses, however.

Stage 3 sleep is also when you’re most likely to experience sleepwalking, if you’re predisposed to the condition!

Stage 4 REM

REM sleep sees brain activity spike as well as a temporary paralysis of all your muscles except those that control your eyes and breathing. REM sleep is essential for cognitive functions like learning, creativity and memory. It’s also when we tend to experience our most vivid dreams.

You will typically enter REM sleep after you’ve been asleep for 90 minutes. Your REM stages will also get longer throughout the night.

For some people, REM sleep isn’t a pleasant state to be in. REM sleep behaviour disorder is a condition that means an individual will not experience the usual paralysis that occurs during REM sleep. Instead, they might “act out” their dreams, potentially startling their partner or family members.


One step towards enjoying deeper sleep is having a quality pillow and mattress. Sleepy’s helps to promote the quality of your sleep through our supportive and comfortable range of products.