Understanding the Sleep Cycle and How it Benefits You

Understanding the Sleep Cycle and How it Benefits You

Did you know that 25% of Americans have acute insomnia? About 75% of those go on to recover without any symptoms. 

But, what if you have insomnia and it’s not going away? First, it’s important to understand all about the sleep cycle and why it’s so important.

In this article, you’ll learn all about decoding what the sleep cycle is and why it’s important. Read on to discover all about it and how it can benefit you to finally get that shut-eye you’ve been dreaming of! 

What Is a Sleep Cycle? 

Many are looking for tips and tricks on for sleeping better, is that you as well? Each night your body goes through a few different rounds of sleep cycles. The length of each sleep cycle varies. 

The Different Sleep Stages

There are 4 different sleep stages which include stages 1, 2, 3, and 4. It consists of non-REM and 1 REM (rapid eye movement). Previously, experts would say that there are 5 sleep stages, but today, they realize there are 4. 

Stage 1

Under NREM sleep this is where you start to doze off. Your body will start to slow and might have twitches.

It’s easy to wake up during this stage. If you don’t get woken up you’ll enter stage 2. 

Stage 2

In stage 2, this is when your breathing and heart rate begin to slow down. Your muscles are relaxed, and there’s a drop in your temperature. 

During this period, you’ll experience small bursts of activity to prevent you from waking up. 

Stage 3

Stage 3 is deep sleep. It’s harder to wake up during this stage. Being woken up during stage 3 can make you feel confused for a few minutes. 

When you’re in the NREM stage, your body builds bones and muscles, improves your immune system, and regrows tissues and other body repairs. Hence why sleep deprivation is damaging. As you age, your sleep will become less deep over the years. 

REM Sleep

Your body normally enters REM sleep about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. During the first period of REM sleep, it’ll last about 10 minutes.

Each of the stages after that are longer. The final stage can last up to an hour. This is where your breathing and heart rate will increase. 

How Much Sleep Do You Need? 

Depending on your age, the amount of time you need varies. For example, infants need to sleep most of the day, and as you get older, the amount of time necessary decreases.

For example, when you’re just born you require 14-17 hours a day, but as an adult, you need 7-9 hours. If you feel sleepy during the day, that means you didn’t get enough shut-eye. 

Sleep Deprivation

Not something you want to take lightly is what’s known as sleep deprivation. This is when you don’t get enough sleep that your body needs.

The impacts on your body are serious. For example, it affects your immune system when you don’t get enough sleep. This can mean an increased risk of infections. 


When you sleep, it helps to rebuild and heal your heart vessels. This is what helps with inflammation, blood pressure, and sugar levels. If you don’t get enough sleep, you might increase your chances of cardiovascular disease. 

The Brain

When you don’t get enough sleep, this can impact your prefrontal cortex. Your prefrontal cortex is what handles emotions. It can also impact your learning capabilities as well. 


Sleep is important to maintain the production of testosterone and hormones. It causes your body to release stress hormones when you don’t get enough sleep. 


If you don’t get enough sleep at night, it can cause your body to increase the amount of fat storage it holds. A lack of sleep can also increase your chances of type 2 diabetes. 


The symptoms of sleep deprivation can include a decreased sex drive, fatigue, mood changes, irritability, and trouble remembering and focusing. Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of accidents as well since it impacts your ability to pay attention and make decisions. Did you know that 1 in 25 adults admit that they’ve fallen asleep while driving in the past month? 


If you continue to not get enough sleep, it can cause depression, obesity, stroke, sleep apnea, etc. The causes of sleep deprivation can include caring for others, deadlines, shifts at work, depression, pain, or sleep apnea. 

Should I Nap? 

If you feel fatigued, a quick nap of about 15-20 minutes can help you recover. Even a quick 5-minute nap can help. Avoid napping for too long since that can have the opposite effect. 

How To Know if You Receive Enough Sleep? 

Do you notice that you feel happy and healthy with your current sleep cycle? Do you notice that you’re tired throughout the day? 

If you rely on coffee or other caffeine to keep you awake, that might mean you’re not getting enough sleep. Do you keep your sleep schedule consistent, even on the weekend? 

How To Fall Asleep Easier? 

An hour before you go to sleep it’s a good idea to start winding down. This means to not look at electronics which includes your laptop, phone, and tablet. The blue light from these devices will impact the melatonin production in your brain.

You need melatonin to sleep! Without melatonin, it’ll be hard to fall asleep. 

Before bed, practice some light stretches such as yoga. This will help you release any stress and relax.

If you listen to music, ensure it’s soothing and calm. Consider taking a cool shower to drop your body’s temperature. 

Keep a Journal

You might have troubling thoughts that are stressing you out and keeping you awake. It’s a good idea to keep a journal and write down any troubling thoughts to release it before bed. You can even write out what you’d like to do the next day. 

Don’t Eat Before Bed

Your last meal should be 3 hours before bed. If you have it closer to bed, that’ll mean it keeps your metabolism elevated. An elevated metabolism means your heart rate is up and your body’s temperature is increased as well. 

Lower the Temperature

It’s vital that you stay at a cooler temperature to help yourself fall and stay asleep. If you can, set your thermostat to a cooler temperature, or have fans on. Keep in mind that each person is different when it comes to which temperature is most comfortable.

Use a Schedule

Your body’s regulatory system is known as the circadian rhythm. This is what tells your body to stay asleep at night, and awake during the day. 

When you go to sleep and wake up each day, your body will get used to this schedule. You’ll want to aim for 7-9 hours each night to ensure that it’s properly set. 


Meditation can help increase your melatonin levels and help you achieve sleep at night. You can also be mindful before bed as well. 

Mindfulness is when you focus on the present instead of worrying about the present or future. Just live in the present moment. 


When you exercise during the day, this can help increase sleep later on. This is due to decreasing stress and boosting serotonin.

At the same time, you don’t want to overdo working out. This means that working out too much can cause poor sleep. 


Aromatherapy might help you relax if you enjoy essential oils. Different scents that might help you sleep better include peppermint, lavender, and damask rose. You can also try out orange and lemon scents as well. 


Choose a paperback book to read right before bed. Electronic books emit blue light which can impact your melatonin levels. Reading might help promote a longer sleep as well. 


While you’re trying to fall asleep, imagine a beautiful place that makes you feel calm and at peace. This is a good way to fill your mind with positive thoughts instead of worries.

It’ll help your mind stay off of any worrying thoughts. This pairs well with mindfulness and meditation. 

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing before bed can help to improve sleep. You don’t have to meditate, instead, you can practice deep breathing exercises. If you’re not sure what to try, there are many apps out there that can help as well. 

Understanding the Different Sleep Cycles

Now that you’ve explored all about the different sleep cycles and how they benefit you, getting some well-deserved shut-eye should be at the top of your list! Would you like to read more health content? For everything from health to tech and science, check out our other articles today.