Understanding the Different Stages of Sleep

Kelly Mahaffy

Kelly Mahaffy
Content Director at Mom’s Choice Awards

Sleep is not a uniform state; instead, it’s a complex process involving various stages and cycles. Understanding these different types of sleep can be the key to improving the quality of your rest. From the light dozing of stage one to the deep, restorative sleep of stage three, each stage plays a crucial role in ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Let’s explore the fascinating world of sleep and uncover the mysteries of the different sleep stages.

1. Light Sleep (NREM Stage 1)

The journey into dreamland begins with light sleep, known as NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) Stage 1. During this stage, you’re in a state of transition between wakefulness and sleep. Your muscles start to relax, and your brain produces alpha and theta waves. It’s easy to be awakened during this stage, and it usually lasts for only a few minutes.

2. True Sleep (NREM Stage 2)

NREM Stage 2 is where true sleep begins. During this stage, your body temperature drops, and your heart rate slows down. Your brain activity also decreases, marked by short bursts of rapid brain waves called sleep spindles. It’s a deeper state of sleep than Stage 1, but you can still be easily awakened.

3. Deep Sleep (NREM Stage 3)

NREM Stage 3 is the stage of deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep. This is the most restorative stage of sleep, where your body repairs tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens your immune system. Brain activity during this stage consists mostly of delta waves. It’s difficult to wake up someone in this stage, and if they do wake up, they are likely to feel disoriented.

4. REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement)

REM sleep, also known as dream sleep, is the stage where most dreaming occurs. During this stage, your brain becomes more active, and your eyes move rapidly from side to side. Despite the increased brain activity, your muscles are temporarily paralyzed, preventing you from acting out your dreams. REM sleep is crucial for learning, memory, and emotional health.

5. Paradoxical Sleep

Another name for REM sleep, paradoxical sleep is characterized by the brain being highly active while the body remains deeply relaxed. This state is called paradoxical because the brain appears awake, but the body is effectively paralyzed. This stage is essential for mental and emotional well-being.

The Sleep Cycle

Sleep doesn’t progress linearly through these stages. Instead, it occurs in cycles, with each cycle lasting approximately 90 to 120 minutes. Each cycle consists of NREM and REM sleep, with NREM sleep dominating the first half and REM sleep becoming more prevalent in the later stages. As the night progresses, REM sleep periods get longer, while deep sleep periods become shorter.


Understanding the different types of sleep is crucial for achieving a good night’s rest. By recognizing the various stages of sleep and the role they play in the sleep cycle, you can take steps to improve the quality of your sleep. From creating a conducive sleep environment to establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, there are many strategies you can employ to ensure you get the restorative sleep your body and mind need. So, here’s to discovering the dreamland and embracing the journey to a more restful and rejuvenating sleep.

Explore these award-winning products honored by Mom’s Choice Awards, guaranteed to assist you and/or your little one in achieving a better night’s sleep!

  • Mintal Tracker: The Mintal Tracker app is a comprehensive sleep tracker and snore recorder designed to help busy moms understand and improve their sleep quality. Powered by AI, it monitors and analyzes sleep stages, snoring, and apnea risks throughout the night, providing a detailed sleep analysis via a customized report.
  • Snorble®: The Snorble system is an interactive learning platform delivered by an adorable character, designed to accelerate your child’s development for a future full of possibilities. It combines technology, education, and entertainment.
  • Moonlight Products: Drawing on extensive sleep research and as the manufacturer of state-of-the-art medical mattresses, Moonlight began its journey as sleep experts. They started by creating the perfect baby mattress for infants and toddlers. As their initiative expanded, they supplied mattresses and support surfaces to university dorms and high-end medical centers across the country, continually innovating and improving their craft along the way.
  • Cubtale: Cubtale introduces Cubs, the world’s smartest buttons to track childcare. Connected with our smart watch-enabled iOS and Android app, Cubs empower caregivers and health professionals with transparent access to their child’s data.
  • Oilogic Slumber & Sleep 2-in-1 Essential Oil Vapor Bath & Shampoo: Oilogic Baby Slumber & Sleep 2-in-1 Essential Oil Vapor Bath & Shampoo uses the power of essential oils to help calm and relax baby before bed. Bathe baby in the plant-based formula and let the relaxing vapors of Lavender Oil and Roman Chamomile oil soothe and calm your little one.
  • SleepCalm Kids Pre-Measured Liquid Doses: Sweet dreams are just a squeeze away with SleepCalm® Kids. This homeopathic sleep aid calms restless sleep, occasional sleeplessness, nightmares, and night terrors, so your child can fall asleep and stay asleep without feeling groggy the next day.* Simply squeeze the small, pre-measured dose into your child’s mouth before bed or anytime during the night for calming relief.
  • Moshi: Moshi is an audio-only app that helps kids get to sleep faster and stay asleep for longer. Recent scientific research in a study by New York University found that participants on average fell asleep 28 minutes earlier and stayed asleep for 22 minutes longer when using Moshi. This precious gift of time for parents is invaluable, allowing them to focus their evenings on what makes them happy and healthy; a win-win for the whole family.
  • MELLA: Ready to Rise Children’s Sleep Trainer, Alarm Clock, Night Light Sleep Sounds Machine – MELLA is the #1 most backed kid’s clock and all-in-one Ready to Rise children’s sleep trainer designed to keep your kid in bed longer. MELLA is a sleep trainer, alarm clock, sleep sounds machine, night light and nap timer rolled into one adorable package.
  • Boiron SleepCalm Kids Meltaway Pellets: Twist your way to relief with SleepCalm® Kids Meltaway Pellets. This homeopathic sleep aid calms occasional restless sleep and sleeplessness, so your child can fall asleep and stay asleep without feeling groggy the next day.* Simply twist the tube until 5 pellets are dispensed and let them melt in your child’s mouth before bed or anytime during the night for calming relief.
  • The Hubble Connected Eclipse+ Smart Soother and Wi-Fi audio monitor comes equipped with a multi-color night light and 100’s of preloaded lullabies, soothing sounds and bedtime stories available in the accompanying HubbleClub app. Featuring a unique, sleek cylindrical design, it is the ideal sleeping solution in both form and function. Using the Smart Sleep Trainer in the app, parents can establish a routine for “time to sleep” and “time to rise” with the option to link a chosen light and sound for both functions.
  • The Hubble Connected Guardian+ is a Baby Movement Monitor that tracks a baby’s sleep quality and provides an array of wellness and activity indicators. The base station also serves as an audio monitor and a smart soother and nightlight with 100’s of expert sleep sounds. The night light and sounds can be programmed as a sleep routine for a perfect night’s rest, as well as a rise-to-wake routine in the morning.

Kelly MahaffyAbout Kelly Mahaffy

Kelly Mahaffy is a seasoned professional with a passion for empowering families through quality content. As the Content Director at Mom’s Choice Awards, Kelly oversees the strategic development and curation of educational and entertaining content aimed at parents and caregivers. With a background in marketing and a deep understanding of the needs of modern families, Kelly is dedicated to providing valuable resources and insights to support families in their journey of raising happy, healthy children.

View all posts by Kelly Mahaffy here.



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7 Comments on “Understanding the Different Stages of Sleep”

  1. I had no idea there were so many stages when it comes to sleep; I try to keep out as much light as possible from the windows because it helps me sleep better. Great article!

  2. Interesting to see the different stages of sleep explained simply. Also, some of those products to help kids sleep better definitely seem useful..like the Moshi App!

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