One complete cycle of sleep consists of four stages and typically lasts between 90 and 120 minutes. Take note that the sleep cycle is broken down into five stages in some published works. These books include the first five to ten minutes of falling asleep as a stage in the process of going through the various stages of sleep. We believe that this stage of sleep is more of a transitional phase and not really part of the cycle, especially considering that the other four stages of sleep do repeat themselves throughout the night, whereas this stage of sleep does not repeat itself. Because of this, we have decided not to include it as part of the cycle.
Dreams can take place at any time during the four stages of sleep; however, the REM stage is associated with the most vivid and life-changing dreams (also commonly referred to as REM sleep). The sleep cycle typically repeats itself between four and five times throughout the course of a typical night, but it can occur as many as seven times. Therefore, it is not surprising that a single night can bring about a wide variety of dream experiences for a person.
On the other hand, the majority of people can only recall dreams that took place close to the time that they normally wake up in the morning. However, the fact that you are unable to recall those dreams does not mean that they did not occur in the past. Some people are under the impression that they do not dream at all, when in fact, they simply are unable to recall the details of their nocturnal adventures.
The shifts in the patterns of certain types of brain activity are what determine the order of the stages that make up the sleep cycle.
The first stage is when you start to drift into a light sleep. This stage is distinguished by the absence of rapid eye movements (NREM), the relaxation of muscle tissue, a decrease in core body temperature, and a slowing of the heart rate. The body is getting ready for a period of rest that is relatively deep.
Stage 2 is characterized by a further drop in body temperature as well as relaxation of the muscles. This stage is also characterized by non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). The body’s immune system immediately gets to work on repairing any damage caused throughout the day. Growth hormones are secreted by the endocrine glands at the same time that blood is pumped to the muscles so that they can be reconditioned. At this point, you have entered a state of complete unconsciousness.
Stage 3: You are still in the NREM stage, but now you are sleeping even more deeply. Your metabolic processes are moving at a painfully slow rate.
In the fourth stage of sleep, your eyes move in a jerky manner as if you were watching something from behind your eyelids. During this stage, you are in a deep sleep. This stage of sleep, also known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or delta sleep, begins approximately ninety to one hundred minutes after the beginning of the sleep cycle. Your blood pressure goes up, your heart rate goes up, your breathing goes all over the place, and the activity in your brain goes up.
Your involuntary muscles will also be paralysed or immobilised as a result of this condition. This portion of the sleeping process is the most rejuvenating for the body. Your thoughts are being refreshed, and your feelings are being honed to perfection. During this stage, you will have the vast majority of your dreams. If you are disturbed while in this stage of sleep, you will have a greater chance of remembering the dreams you had.
While you sleep, you will go through these stages repeatedly throughout the night. As the cycle continues, you will find that you spend less time in stages 1 through 3 and more time in stage 4, where you are dreaming. In other words, each time you go through the cycle, it will be that much easier for you to advance to stage 4 and complete the task.
When you enter the REM stage of sleep, you will notice that your breathing has sped up a little bit, and you will also experience a momentary paralysis as you start dreaming.
The exact cause of this paralysis is unknown to specialists, but one theory suggests that your muscles “freeze” in order to prevent you from standing up and moving around in an unconscious attempt to replicate the events of your dream.
The experts are not entirely certain, but they do know that the average person spends somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours dreaming each night Trusted Source. However, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to recall each and every one of those dreams.
If you are awakened while in the REM stage of sleep, you might realize that you were just dreaming, possibly very vividly.
On the other hand, if you are roused from NREM sleep by another person, you are significantly less likely to have the impression that you were merely dreaming.
While it’s possible to have dreams at any stage of sleep, REM sleep is typically when people have the most vivid dreams that they can later recall.
The question of whether or not people who woke up from non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep reported having dreams was investigated by Trusted Source using a device known as a TMS-EEG. This is a machine that combines transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and an electroencephalogram (EEG) test to examine brain activity.
When awakened from NREM sleep, more than half of the participants reported having memories of their dreams. The researchers did make the observation that the participants’ descriptions of their dream experiences were, on average, both shorter and less detailed than the descriptions of their REM dream experiences.
If a participant elaborated on their dream for a longer period of time, their EEG was more likely to show patterns of brain waves similar to those seen in awake people. These patterns include brain wave patterns that occur during REM sleep.
It’s not unusual to wish you could get rid of your nightmares, have dreams that are more interesting, or have some influence over what takes place while you’re asleep.
Regrettably, waking up from a nightmare or a dream that is so boring it could put you to sleep (no pun intended) is not always as simple as you might hope it would be. Nevertheless, when you’re in REM sleep, there’s a possibility that you’ll be aware, at least on some level, that you’re dreaming.
At least once in their lives, approximately 55 percent of people will have the type of dream known as a lucid dream at least once.
Because you are aware that you are dreaming during a lucid dream, you have the ability to alter or direct the events that take place within the dream.
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