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What Should A Normal Sleep Cycle Look Like

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What Does A Healthy Sleep Pattern Look Like

What Does “Normal” Sleep Look Like

If youve been reading our blog on a regular basis you already know that sleep is vital to your physical, emotional, and mental health. You dont just need to sleep; you need to sleep well. How can you tell whether or not youre doing so?; On average, adults should get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, but even those needs vary individually. For example, some people feel best with eight consecutive hours of sleep, while others do well with seven hours at night and a daytime nap.;

What does Normal Sleep Look Like?;

Here are some statements about your sleep. If these apply to you, its a good sign that your sleep is on track.

#1 You fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes of lying down to sleep.

#2 You always or almost always sleep a total of seven or eight hours in a 24-hour period.

#3 Your sleep is continuous, without long periods of lying awake or tossing and turning.

#4 You wake up feeling refreshed.

#5 You feel alert and are able to be fully productive throughout the waking hours.;

#6 Your sleeping partner does not notice any disturbing or out of the ordinary behavior from you while you are asleep. These include snoring, pauses in breathing, and restlessness.

Did most or even all of these sound familiar? Great! This is a good sign that your sleep is on track. If you notice one or a few of these that dont apply to you, it is important to look into this further. Lets begin by discussing your sleep cycle.;

Understanding Sleep Cycles at Night;

Changes To Sleep Cycles

The distribution of sleep across stages changes over the course of a lifetime, from childhood through old age. A wide range of environmental and lifestyle factorsâfrom light and noise to exercise, stress, and dietâcan influence your nightly sleep architecture. Even your sleep routine itself affects how sleep cycles unfold: getting too little or too much sleep, as well as the quality of your sleep, can alter sleep cycles. By creating habits and routines that promote healthy sleep, you help your body maintain the integrity of your own individual sleep architecture, to the benefit of your long-term health.

What Is Rem Sleep

Usually, REM sleep happens 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The first period of REM typically lasts 10 minutes. Each of your later REM stages gets longer, and the final one may last up to an hour. Your heart rate and breathing quickens.

You can have intense dreams during REM sleep, since your brain is more active. REM is important because it stimulates the areas of the brain that help with learning and is associated with increased production of proteins

Babies can spend up to 50% of their sleep in the REM stage, compared to only about 20% for adults.

Recommended Reading: The Time You Spend In Nrem Sleep Is Divided Into _________ Distinct Stages.

What Is A Healthy Sleep Pattern

Sleep is a complex process that affects our entire body.; When we sleep, we cycle through a series of sleep stages, from light sleep to deep sleep and then rapid eye movement sleep. Successfully cycling through all of these sleep stages multiple times each night allows sleep to perform its critical function of restoring our bodies and minds. You will reap the greatest benefits from sleep when you get enough hours of sleep each night, have sleep that is relatively uninterrupted, and maintain a consistent sleep schedule suiting your natural circadian rhythms. Learn more about each of these components of a healthy sleep pattern below.

What Is The Sleep Cycle

How it works

Sleep is not uniform. Instead, over the course of the night, your total sleep is made up of several rounds of the sleep cycle, which is composed of four individual stages. In a typical night, a person goes through four to six sleep cycles. Not all sleep cycles are the same length, but on average they last about 90 minutes each.

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Other Causes Of Sleep Trouble

Pregnancy is another reason for insomnia, especially in the first and third trimesters. Menopause is, too, as hot flashes are uncomfortable. Both men and women tend to have sleep problems after age 65. And shift workers and frequent flyers can get a circadian rhythm disorder. This means their âinternal body clockâ is out of whack.

How Is A Hypnogram Obtained

A hypnogram is usually made at the same time as other recordings, like an electroencephalogram , electrooculography and electromyography . All of the three are electrical signals obtained by electrodes placed on the skin. ;

While one or more of these recordings are being made, a computer also takes information every 30 seconds to make a hypnogram.

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What Is Normal Sleep

A good nights sleep is when you fall asleep quite easily, do not fully wake up during the night, do not wake up too early, and feel refreshed in the morning. Regularly having difficulty falling asleep or sleeping through the night is not normal for healthy people of any age. But not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, and quality of sleep is different in different phases of life.

Young children and older people sleep more lightly than adults and teenagers. The length of time spent in deep sleep phases changes over a person’s lifetime. Babies and toddlers need to sleep a lot more than older children and adults. By the time they reach the age of five, most children have the typical sleep patterns of an adult: they are awake during the day and then sleep through the night. The amount of time spent sleeping gradually decreases until the age of 80.

How Can You Have A Healthier Sleep Cycle

Mayo Clinic Minute: What are the stages of sleep?

While you dont have full control of your sleep cycle, you can take steps to improve your chances of having a healthy progression through each sleep stage.

A key step is to focus on improving your sleep hygiene, which refers to your sleep environment and sleep-related habits. Achieving a more consistent sleep schedule, getting natural daylight exposure, avoiding alcohol before bedtime, and eliminating noise and light disruptions can help you get uninterrupted sleep and promote proper alignment of your circadian rhythm.

If you find that you have excessive daytime sleepiness or otherwise suspect that you might have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, its important to talk with a doctor who can most appropriately guide your care. Addressing underlying issues may pave the way for more complete and restorative sleep cycles.

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Dreaming And Rem Sleep

We typically spend more than 2 hours each night dreaming. Scientists do not know much about how or why we dream. Sigmund Freud, who greatly influenced the field of psychology, believed dreaming was a safety valve for unconscious desires. Only after 1953, when researchers first described REM in sleeping infants, did scientists begin to carefully study sleep and dreaming. They soon realized that the strange, illogical experiences we call dreams almost always occur during REM sleep. While most mammals and birds show signs of REM sleep, reptiles and other cold-blooded animals do not.

REM sleep begins with signals from an area at the base of the brain called the pons. These signals travel to a brain region called the thalamus, which relays them to the cerebral cortex the outer layer of the brain that is responsible for learning, thinking, and organizing information. The pons also sends signals that shut off neurons in the spinal cord, causing temporary paralysis of the limb muscles. If something interferes with this paralysis, people will begin to physically act out their dreams a rare, dangerous problem called REM sleep behavior disorder. A person dreaming about a ball game, for example, may run headlong into furniture or blindly strike someone sleeping nearby while trying to catch a ball in the dream.

Do Sleep Trackers Really Work

Activity trackers are all the rage, and millions of wrists now sportdevices that monitor everything from your heart rate and oxygen consumptionto the number of steps you take each day.

Among their many functions, activity trackers can also shine a light onyour biggest source of inactivity: sleep.

But do they actually work? Read on to learn what sleep tracking devices cantell you

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What Does Do Normal Sleep Cycles Look Like

Sleep is misunderstood. Theres an overwhelming amount of information about sleep both online and offline. Some of it is good but some of it is confusing and unhelpful. Some of it is just plain inaccurate.

Whether or not you are currently struggling with sleep, it can be helpful to understand what normal sleep looks like so you arent putting pressure on yourself to sleep in a way that might not be normal or even appropriate.

What Influences The Quality And Length Of Sleep

Why do I have trouble sleeping?

Since sleep and wakefulness are influenced by different neurotransmitter signals in the brain, foods and medicines that change the balance of these signals affect whether we feel alert or drowsy and how well we sleep. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, and drugs such as diet pills and decongestants stimulate some parts of the brain and can cause insomnia, or an inability to sleep. Many antidepressants suppress REM sleep. Heavy smokers often sleep very lightly and have reduced amounts of REM sleep. They also tend to wake up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal. Many people who suffer from insomnia try to solve the problem with alcohol the so-called night cap. While alcohol does help people fall into light sleep, it also robs them of REM and the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. Instead, it keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep, from which they can be awakened easily.

We lose some of the ability to regulate our body temperature during REM, so abnormally hot or cold temperatures in the environment can disrupt this stage of sleep. If our REM sleep is disrupted one night, our bodies dont follow the normal sleep cycle progression the next time we doze off. Instead, we often slip directly into REM sleep and go through extended periods of REM until we catch up on this stage of sleep.

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What Do Hypnograms Look Like Normal Vs Disrupted Sleep

In Figure 1, we can see a series of normal sleep cycles. In the first half of the night, there is plenty of deep sleep, whereas, in the second half, theres more REM sleep and significantly less deep sleep. There are only a couple of awakenings, and they occur after REM sleep. Light sleep precedes and follows both deep and REM sleep. This is what the typical sleep of a relatively young, healthy adult looks like.

Is Your Sleep Healthy

  • Feeling sleepy during the day or needing to schedule daytime naps
  • Sleeping much longer or later on unstructured days

If one or more of these signs sounds like you, start by examining your sleep hygiene practices to see whether you can promote better sleep by changing your environment, adjusting your daily activities, and establishing a bedtime routine.

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Why Is Sleep Important For Our Health

Sleep and sleep-related problems play a role in a large number of human disorders and affect almost every field of medicine. For example, problems like stroke and asthma attacks tend to occur more frequently during the night and early morning, perhaps due to changes in hormones, heart rate, and other characteristics associated with sleep. Sleep also affects some kinds of epilepsy in complex ways. REM sleep seems to help prevent seizures that begin in one part of the brain from spreading to other brain regions, while deep sleep may promote the spread of these seizures. Sleep deprivation also triggers seizures in people with some types of epilepsy.

How Can You Sleepmore Soundly

What Are Sleep Cycles? – Everything You Need To Know!

“A reliable schedule is a critical part of being a healthy sleeper,” suggests Professor Espie. “You shouldmake the time to have a wind-down routine to help you relax before bed, and putyour day to rest. Aim to stop your work/activity at least 60-90 minutes beforebed, and keep your bedroom dark to help signal the body that it’s time for bed.”

“Give your mind something tofocus on; one technique that’s proven to work is using imagery. Imagine a scenethat is calming and relaxing like walking through a favourite park or sailingin a gentle breeze something that is engaging rather than exciting to thebrain.”

If you’re unsure what to do with your sleep data, apps such asSleepio sync with data from devices from trackers to help builda weekly plan, using CBT techniques, to helptrain your mind and body into sleeping better.

You should also be wary of external factors that can impact your sleep. During our sleep diary, we discovered this was a key issue. Light, sound, and even dust are all things that can interfere with rest. If you think your sleep is suffering, you can try to ascertain any external factors that may be causing it. Devices like the Withings Aura keep a lookout for these things.

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Stress And Mental Health Conditions

Stress and anxiety can cause sleep fragmentation. This may be the bodys way of preparing for danger, making it easier for a person to wake up.

The amount of sleep people need varies depending on their age. Sleep duration requirements may also vary slightly from person to person.

The provide the following recommendations for sleep duration by age group.


If a person notices that they do not feel refreshed when they wake up in the morning or that they experience frequent tiredness during the day, they may not be getting good quality sleep.

This can occur even if the person sleeps for a proper amount of time each night.

In many cases, sleep quality can improve with lifestyle changes. These include:

  • developing or maintaining a regular schedule for sleeping and waking, including on weekends
  • using the bed or bedroom only for sleep and sex, if possible
  • reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, particularly in the evening
  • getting exposure to natural light during daytime or using a light therapy device
  • reducing exposure to blue light, such as in phones, computers, and other devices, before bed
  • making time each evening to rest and relax, avoiding sources of stress

Low sleep quality can also be a side effect of certain medications, drug or alcohol overuse, mental health conditions, hormone imbalances, and sleep disorders. If any of these is a concern, it is best to speak to a doctor.

Tips For Improved Sleep

All stages of sleep are important and your body naturally regulates your sleep cycles to make sure you get what you need.

Tools like the Oura Ring can help you monitor your sleep patterns and generate a Sleep Score each night to help you improve your sleep.

Check out these patterns to see if your sleep is being disrupted:

  • Increase in deep sleep after a hard workout: Exercise can increase your bodys prioritization of deep sleep the night after an intensive workout.1
  • Higher REM rebound after sleep deprivation: When you recover from a period of sleep deprivation, your body prioritizes deep sleep for the first few nights to repair your body and prepare for action. After several nights of sufficient deep sleep, REM sleep rebounds; to focus on your brain.
  • Interrupted sleep cycles after caffeine:Caffeine can increase the time it takes for you to fall asleep, cutting your sleep period short. Shorter sleep periods disproportionately cut down on your total REM sleep, as REM cycles are more likely to occur in later sleep cycles.

We all have those days when we just need our coffee. However, taking a look at your nightly patterns and acting on your desire to improve your sleep can help you face those days well rested.


  • Stutz, Jan, Remo Eiholzer, and Christina M. Spengler. Effects of evening exercise on sleep in healthy participants: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine 49, no. 2 : 269-287.
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    Are All Sleep Cycles The Same

    It is normal for sleep cycles to change as you progress through your nightly sleep. The first sleep cycle is often the shortest, ranging from 70-100 minutes, while later cycles tend to fall between 90 and 120 minutes. In addition, the composition of each cycle how much time is spent in each sleep stage changes as the night goes along.

    Sleep cycles can vary from person to person and from night to night based on a wide range of factors such as age, recent sleep patterns, and alcohol consumption.

    How Much Time Should You Spend In Each Sleep Stage

    Is this normal? Deep sleep to awake

    Below is a graphic depicting the average amount of time WHOOP members spend in each of the 4 stages of sleep on a nightly basis, as well as the percentage of total time each stage represents.


    Its worth noting that for the most part our members are people who are interested in tracking their physiological data 24/7 and improving their overall performance, so its likely they make more of an effort to get quality sleep than the general population as a whole.

    Every human body is different, and the amount of sleep we need varies from person to person. The middle 50% of all WHOOP members average the following per night:

    • 3:28-3:59 of light sleep
    • 1:44-2:00 of REM sleep
    • 1:23-1:32 of deep sleep
    • 0:43-0:50 awake

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