Synchronization of the schedule of adults with their newborn baby’s sleep cycles is one of the biggest issues for new parents. When you know more about sleep and what happens during sleep, you will have an easier time both putting your baby to sleep and understanding what is happening with your baby. From this article, you will learn about five stages of sleep and what happens during each stage.
The border between being awake and being asleep
This is the stage when both adults and babies are falling asleep. You are not sleeping yet, but you aren’t fully awake and conscious either. This stage of sleep is shorter than other stages. Typically, people spend 5% or less of their sleep here.
The most important thing to understand about this stage of sleep is that it is easier to get out of it compared to other stages. This is why even the smallest noise such as a squeaking floor can make your baby wake up and not go back to sleep for another hour. For this reason, you want to make sure that when you are putting your baby to sleep, all the devices are off and there are no distractions, interruptions or noises. Even though this is not complete sleep, the patterns in a brain for both babies and adults are already changing to a lower voltage activity.
Stage two of sleep – light sleep
When a person is sleeping lightly, the sleep is much more sound compared to the borderline sleep. It is also much harder to wake the person up from this stage of sleep. During this stage, the eyes are not moving. There may be some dreaming, but typically the dreams do not occur until deeper stages of sleep. The brain starts creating electrical bursts that help it move from daytime activity to slow orderly rhythms of deep sleep. One of the goals of the brain during sleep is to turn create images about the previous day that will stay in your memory. Researchers believe that the brain creates different kinds of memories during different stages of sleep. At this stage, the light sleep, the brain preserves factual information such as numbers, figures and other dry bits about your experiences.
The difference between deep sleep and the previous stages is that in deep sleep your brain stops creating bursts of electrical energy. These bursts are replaced with slow wave patterns that scientists call delta waves. Stages of sleep work like a staircase. The higher you or your baby climb, the more sound the sleep is going to be.
One of the things to remember about babies and their sleep is that newborns don’t have these stages of sleep fully developed. The development is a process that takes some time.
People spend about 25% of their sleep in this stage. Other than the data about electric brain waves, scientists have very little information about this stage of sleep. Here’s what is known about it: getting back to being awake from this stage is very hard and if a person does wake up, he or she will be confused and dazed for a few seconds about what is going on and where he or she is.
The deepest sleep
During this stage of sleep, the delta waves dominate the activity of the brain. This stage is very similar to the deep sleep stage. Most events, such as terrors, sleep-walking, and bed-wetting, occur in this stage of sleep.
This stage of sleep also stands out from others because the human body creates a lot of the growth hormone during this stage. This is also when people tend to move in their sleep.
While the stages of sleep do represent a ladder, people don’t necessarily climb it sequentially. It is possible for a person to go through light sleep, deep sleep and the deepest sleep, then go back to stage 2 and start all over again. Typically, adults repeat the cycles three to five times a night. Each cycle typically lasts up to 90 minutes. At the same time, adults can break the cycle, jump off the path and go into REM or rapid eye movement sleep. Once the REM stage ends, they go back to stage two and either continue the process of going into the next stages of sleep or wake up.
REM stands for rapid eye movement. As its name suggests, this stage is characterized by rapid eye movements.
Scientists also know that this stage is when the most vivid dreams occur. Research shows that people who wake up when monitors show REM patterns of sleep report the brightest dreams. Dreamlike moments do occur during other phases of sleep, too, but they appear to be short and somewhat rational.
Dreams during the REM stage are typically wild, unpredictable and illogical.
Scientists have a lot of theories about dreams and REM sleep. One of such theories claims that people need dreams to better manage desire. According to this theory, people have unmet needs and wants that accumulate and start frustrating them. Having dreams is one way for a brain to experience meeting these needs and wants.
During REM sleep, the brain disconnects the communication between itself and the spinal cord. The muscles lose their connection to the brain. This is exactly what happens when a person gets paralyzed. The only difference is that immediately after REM stage of sleep the brain restores these connections.
Most babies do move even in REM sleep because their bodies have not yet fully developed mechanisms of turning off the connection between the brain and the spinal cord during sleep.
During the REM sleep stage, slow waves of the electrical activity in the brain that have developed during the deep and deepest sleep stages turn into irregular bursts. The heart rate, breathing patterns and body temperature also change. They act as if the sleeping person was awake.