Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Stages

Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Stages

Sleep plays a pivotal role in our overall health, facilitating essential bodily functions like muscle repair, hormone regulation, and memory consolidation. Throughout the night, our bodies cycle through four distinct stages of sleep, each with its own set of characteristics and benefits.

Illustration by Sudaraka Gunasena

Sleep can be broadly categorized into two main types: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Most adults initially enter NREM sleep from a drowsy state, which is further divided into three stages: N1, N2, and N3. The older classification included four stages of NREM sleep, but in current classifications, NREM stage 3 and NREM stage 4 are merged into stage N3.

Each sleep stage occurs in cycles lasting approximately 90 to 120 minutes, with four to five cycles occurring during a typical night of sleep. The distribution of sleep stages shifts throughout the night, with an increased percentage of NREM sleep in the first half and an increased percentage of REM sleep in the second half.

Stages of Sleep

NREM Stage N1: This is the initial transition from wakefulness to sleep, lasting only a few minutes. It's characterized by slow eye movements, decreased heart rate and breathing, muscle relaxation, and low amplitude mixed frequencies in the theta range.

NREM Stage N2: The largest portion of total sleep time occurs in this stage, which is considered a lighter stage of sleep. Heart rate and breathing slow further, body temperature drops, and distinctive brain wave features known as sleep spindles and K-complexes emerge.

NREM Stage N3: Known as deep sleep, this final stage of NREM sleep is crucial for physical restoration. Arousal from sleep is difficult, heart rate and breathing are at their slowest, no eye movements occur, and delta brain waves are present, facilitating tissue repair, growth, and immune system strengthening.

REM Stage R: Rapid eye movement sleep is the primary dreaming stage, occurring roughly 90 minutes after falling asleep. Eye movements become rapid, breathing and heart rate increase, muscles become paralyzed, and brain activity surges.

Facts About Sleep

Despite its importance, there's still much to learn about sleep. Here are some intriguing facts:

  • Humans spend about one-third of their lives sleeping, while animals like cats, koalas, and bats can spend even more time asleep.
  • Sleep needs vary by age, with newborns requiring up to 17 hours of sleep per day and adults needing 7 to 9 hours.
  • Sleep deprivation can have significant negative effects on mood, cognition, and perception, even after just 24 hours without sleep.

Sleep Disorders

Approximately 70 million people in the United States experience a sleep disorder annually, impacting sleep quality and overall health. Common sleep disorders include:

  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling or staying asleep, often resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Sleep apnea: Breathing interruptions during sleep due to narrowed airways, leading to fragmented sleep and fatigue.
  • Restless leg syndrome: Uncomfortable sensations in the legs, particularly at rest, causing difficulty falling asleep.
  • Shift work disorder: Circadian rhythm disruption due to non-traditional work schedules, leading to sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness.
  • Narcolepsy: Chronic sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks.

Tips for Quality Sleep

Improving sleep hygiene can enhance sleep quality. Consider these strategies:

  • Spend time outdoors during the day to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.
  • Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to promote restful sleep.
  • Limit daytime naps to 20-30 minutes to avoid interfering with nighttime sleep.
  • Avoid stimulants and heavy meals before bedtime.
  • Minimize screen time before sleep to reduce exposure to blue light.

Prioritizing these habits can lead to better sleep quality and overall well-being. If sleep difficulties persist, consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and treatment options.


Understanding the stages of sleep and implementing strategies for quality rest are essential for optimal health and wellness. By prioritizing sleep hygiene and addressing any underlying sleep disorders, you can enjoy restorative sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated each day.

Back to blog

Latest Ninda Products

1 of 4