As you sleep, your brain goes through various, repeating patterns of activity. Whenever a pattern starts again, that is the beginning of a new sleep cycle. There are two sleep cycle categories, REM and non-REM (NREM) sleep.
Non-REM sleep happens first and includes three to four stages. You sleep deeply in the last stages of non-REM sleep and it is hard to wake up from this stage of sleep.
REM sleep happens about an hour to an hour and a half after falling asleep. REM sleep is when you tend to have vivid dreams and this is the most likely period to briefly wake up at night.
During REM sleep, your brain becomes highly active, almost resembling the state of wakefulness. It is during this stage that we dream. Your eyes flicker rapidly beneath your closed eyelids, thus earning the name “rapid eye movement” sleep.
Interestingly, REM sleep is also the period when you are most likely to experience brief awakenings during the night. These awakenings might be fleeting, perhaps a mere transition from one dream to another, or a momentary disruption in your slumber. However, they are a normal part of the sleep cycle, and you usually drift back into the depths of sleep without even realizing it.
As the night progresses, the proportion of time spent in REM sleep gradually increases, while non-REM sleep cycles become shorter. This cyclic dance between REM and non-REM sleep continues throughout the night, guiding you through the different stages of rest and replenishment.
Understanding and respecting these natural rhythms can have a profound impact on your sleep quality. By awakening at the end of a sleep cycle or during a lighter stage of sleep, you can rise feeling refreshed and energised, ready to embrace the day’s challenges.
As you embark on your nocturnal journey, remember the magic of sleep cycles. Embrace the symphony of REM and non-REM sleep, knowing that they work in tandem to restore your body and mind. And when you awaken from a vivid dream or experience a brief interruption in your slumber, take comfort in the knowledge that it’s merely a part of this captivating sleep cycle dance.