We often talk about how sleep apnea disrupts your body’s natural sleep stages, but we haven’t actually talked about how these stages are supposed to work. Here’s a brief summation of how your sleep is supposed to work, without being interrupted by apneas.

Stage One Sleep

Stage 1 sleep is also called “light sleep,” when we’re just drifting off to sleep. It’s a daydreamy place where our mind drifts over a lot of ideas, and it’s very relaxing. In fact, it’s physiologically similar to deep meditation.

In addition to feeling peaceful and relaxed, it’s common to experience hallucinations at this stage, especially auditory ones, such as someone calling your name, music, or a doorbell. Or the sudden sensation of falling that sometimes causes us to jerk awake just as we’re falling asleep.

For healthy sleepers, this stage takes about 5-10 minutes.

Stage Two Sleep

During stage two sleep, the body temperature begins to drop. Breathing and heart rate slow down, but the brain can be surprisingly active, producing a number of short bursts of rapid brainwave activity, called sleep spindles.

Stage two sleep typically takes about 20 minutes.

Stage Three Sleep

During stage three sleep, you are transitioning into deeper stage four sleep. Delta brain waves, the deepest, slowest brain waves, begin to appear.
Stage three sleep can be very short, and hard to distinguish from stage four sleep, so they’re often lumped together.

Stage Four Sleep

Stage four sleep is the most restful and regenerative sleep. This is when your blood pressure drops, breathing slows even further, and muscles are deeply relaxed. Growth hormones are released, and repair of the body’s tissues from a day’s exertions take place. It’s hard to awaken from this stage of sleep, even if you’re snoring loudly. Although this is a very deep sleep, sleepwalking and other parasomnias often occur at the end of this stage of sleep.

Stage four sleep lasts about 30 minutes.

REM Sleep

REM sleep is named for the rapid eye movements that occur during this stage of sleep. This is when your brain becomes remarkably active, though your voluntary muscles are actually shut off. Dreams occur during this stage, as well as some important memory tasks.
REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep, but the first cycle is short, and you’ll return to earlier sleep stages. It’s important for the body to go through these cycles multiple times to fully achieve restorative sleep.

IF you’re not getting restorative sleep, and are waking up tired or falling asleep through the day, it’s likely because your sleep stages are interrupted by sleep apnea. We can help you identify the source of your sleeping problems and refer you to a sleep physician for diagnosis if necessary. To learn more, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.