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A Brief Guide to the Four Stages of Sleep

April 11, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — fourtowndentalcare @ 2:47 pm
Man in bed, going through the stages of sleep in Enfield

Every time you drift off to sleep, your body embarks on a journey. It passes through four unique stages of sleep in Enfield, each of which plays an important role in supporting your overall wellness. What happens during each portion of the sleep cycle, and how can sleep apnea prevent you from benefitting fully from your nighttime shuteye? This blog post discusses the answers to those questions.

Stages 1 and 2: Light Sleep

As soon as you nod off, you enter the first stage of sleep. Your heartrate, breathing, and eye movements slow down. However, you may still be somewhat alert. If any noise occurs nearby, or you are suddenly exposed to a bright light, you are likely to respond to such stimuli. You might not even realize that you had fallen asleep to begin with.

Stage 1 sleep usually lasts 5 – 10 minutes, after which you enter stage 2. At this point, your awareness of your surroundings decreases, your body temperature drops slightly, and your eye movements stop. Your brain starts to emit a particular type of wave, called sleep spindles. For most people, about half of their total sleep time is spent in stage 2.

Stages 3 and 4: Deeper Sleep

When you transition to stage 3, you enter what is often called “deep sleep.” It becomes difficult to awaken you. Your body gets busy working on repairing tissues that were damaged throughout the day, and your brain starts to consolidate new memories. Your cytokine levels become elevated. Cytokines are a specific type of protein that plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system.

When you enter the fourth stage of sleep, your eyes begin to make quick movements, which is why stage 4 is also known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Your heartrate picks up, your blood pressure becomes elevated, and your breathing is shallower. Most dreams occur during REM sleep.

Sleep Apnea and the Sleep Cycle

An average person goes through all four stages of sleep in approximately 1 – 2 hours, so the entire cycle gets repeated multiple times throughout the night. Unfortunately, some individuals suffer from a sleep disorder that prevents them from transitioning smoothly between the stages of sleep and benefitting fully from each of them.

Sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing throughout the night. When these pauses occur, the body has to arouse itself in order to resume breathing. This can prevent an individual from spending an adequate amount of time in the deeper stages of sleep. As a result, their emotions, memory, and overall wellness can suffer.

In order for individuals with sleep apnea to enjoy high-quality rest, they should use an appropriate treatment. For example, many find that an oral appliance from a dentist allows them to get through the night with few or no interruptions to their breathing.

Each stage of sleep is important. If you are not benefitting from all of them, you may have a sleep disorder that requires professional care.

Meet the Practice

Four Town Dental provides both general oral healthcare and advanced services, including sleep apnea therapy. If you are concerned about the quality of your rest, our team can help you arrange for testing. To learn more about how we may be able to serve you, contact us at 860-856-6928.

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