Sleep staging is a term that refers to the different phases we go through during sleep, each of which serves a unique purpose for our body and mind. Just as a musician guides a symphony through different movements, our brain navigates us through different stages of sleep.
Sleep stages can be broadly categorised into REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep, with the latter further divided into three stages: N1, N2, and N3. The N1 stage is the lightest stage of sleep, a gateway between wakefulness and sleep. N2 is a slightly deeper stage, where our heart rate slows down and our body temperature drops. The deepest sleep occurs in the N3 stage, which is crucial for restorative processes. Finally, REM sleep, often associated with dreaming, plays a role in memory consolidation and learning.
If you’ve used a sleep tracker, you may find these stages represented in your results. So, how does one interpret them?
Understanding your sleep stages involves recognising how much time you spend in each. An average night’s sleep cycles through these stages roughly every 90 minutes, with increasing REM periods as the night progresses. If you notice you’re spending less time in deep sleep (N3) and REM sleep, it may indicate disrupted or poor-quality sleep.
If you often wake up feeling tired despite spending adequate time in bed, it could suggest you’re not getting enough deep sleep. Similarly, if your REM sleep is compromised, you may struggle with learning or memory retention.
Keep in mind that interpreting your sleep stages is not about perfection. It’s normal for these stages to vary based on a host of factors, including age, stress levels, and overall health. It’s about identifying patterns and potential issues that may impact your well-being.
To navigate your journey to better sleep, consider lifestyle changes. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, maintaining consistent sleep schedules, and curbing screen time before bed can contribute to healthier sleep stages.
Remember, sleep staging is foundational to your health and should never be compromised. Understanding your sleep stages is a step towards more mindful living, allowing you to tune into your body’s needs and thereby creating a more harmonious symphony of well-being. So, here’s to a better understanding of our nightly journey through the fascinating stages of sleep.
Ritesh Bawri is the author of the book #theamazinghealthtransformation available at Amazon