Many people strive to have quality sleep—sleep that allows you to doze off as soon as you plop down on the bed, enjoy sweet dreams, and wake up feeling more refreshed than ever.

Most people are aware of the term rapid eye movement (REM) and acknowledge it as the most important stage in your sleep cycle, however there are different stages that all come together to create a restorative experience.

If you’re wondering what happens in your brain in between you nodding off and transitioning to a sequence of dreams, the guide below should give a simple rundown on the difference between REM and non-REM sleep.

Understanding Non-REM Sleep

Many people don’t know that there are actually three stages to non-REM sleep. They are categorized as N1, N2, and N3:

• Stage N1

The first stage of your sleep cycle begins when you start to feel drowsy, which prompts you to drift into “N1” in the non-REM sleep. It’s the lightest form of sleep that often lasts between five to ten minutes, wherein the breathing slows down, eye movement lessens, and muscles start to relax.

This is the phase where your brainwaves are the most peaceful and the body temperature drops to prepare you for REM sleep. However, anyone can easily jerk away from this stage, especially when you experience a “falling” sensation in bed.

• Stage N2

After N1 ends, you start to fall deeper and experience the second stage of non-REM sleep, which typically lasts 10 to 25 minutes. It’s a form of light sleep wherein the heart rate slows down, eye movement completely stops, and muscles are more relaxed than ever before.

This is the phase in which people spend the most time compared to any other stage of sleep, amounting to 55 percent of the total sleep time for most healthy adults.

• Stage N3

Known as the last stage before drifting off to REM sleep, it’s often called the slow-wave. It’s a crucial stage that is responsible for refreshing your mind and body, especially since it helps the brain react less to external stimuli.

People often spend 20 to 40 minutes in this stage, but since it’s the stage where the brain is at its most relaxed, waking up during this time often results in a groggy and disoriented state of mind.

Understanding REM Sleep

In the last stage of the sleep cycle, REM sleep, typically occurs within 90 minutes of experiencing the full cycle of non-REM sleep. REM sleep also happens in waves, the first one lasting for only ten minutes, but every phase progresses and lasts longer as you stay in this stage.

The eyes also experience rapid movement thanks to vivid dreams, which is why your heart rate and blood pressure will rise higher than it does during the N1 sleep cycle. However, the muscles in the body will be completely relaxed to prevent you from acting out your dreams.

The Bottom Line: Understanding the Different Stages of Sleep and Its Importance

It’s easy to think that sleep is all about letting go of your consciousness and is a time meant for unwinding, but there are crucial stages in your cycle where your brain is at its most active.  Understanding the different sleep phases will help you have a better overview of your sleep health, making it easier to strive for better bedtime habits to achieve quality rest.

Sleep Doctor in Jacksonville, FL

If you’re looking for a sleep apnea specialist or sleep doctor in Jacksonville, FL, to get quality sleep apnea treatment, our team at Jacksonville Sleep Center is your best option. You deserve a good night’s sleep—contact us at today!