The different sleep stage cycles explained, and how snoring influences them

sleep-stagesSnoring does not only influence the quality of sleep you get at night, but it also affects your health.  I have read numerous times about the problems snoring causes, which ultimately led me to create this site and test so many products.

As I researched snoring, I began to understand the real consequences it had on my health.

Previously, I only brushed off my snoring as something that most people did and there were no real health issues connected to it.

I soon realized how wrong I was to believe that.

Understanding the different stages of sleep and why they are each so important to your well-being will help you realize the long term ill effects on your health that snoring causes.

However, this will also lead you to correcting the issue and find a product that will assist you to end your snoring.

The definition of sleep

Sleeping every night is much more than just resting, closing our eyes and shutting down for 6-9 hours.

Sleeping is a very active period where a lot of important things occur in our bodies, such as strengthening, restoration, and processing.

The entire reason how and why this happens is not entirely understood.  Scientists do however understand some of the most critical functions of sleeping and why we need it to be healthy and live a quality life.

The good news is that these scientific studies and analysis are relatively new, which means snoring and quality of sleep studies are current.

Eugene Aserinsky, a pioneer in sleep research

Eugene Aserinsky, a pioneer in sleep research

One of the first in-depth studies of sleeping was done by Eugene Aserinsky, who was only a graduate student at the time.  He used a tool that provided the earliest detailed description of the different stages of the sleep cycle, called the electroencephalograph and discovered rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Up until his study, sleep was only believed to be a period of the body shutting down with almost no activity.   Today, we understand that sleep is another phase of the 24-hour period known as the natural body cycle.

There are actually 5 stages of sleep, and each stage has its own unique purpose and function.

A non-snorer will sleep the entire night uninterrupted, seamlessly flow in and out of each stage and complete 90 – 110-minute cycles throughout the night.  Snorers do not have this luxury!

The ultradian sleep cycle is what is defined as the rhythm of sleep, and it consists of two stages – REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement).

Each stage has a different and specific function physiologically.

The average sleeper who does not snore gets about two full hours each night of the deepest stage of sleep.  Snorers do not get to reach these full two hours.

Sadly, for the body to completely recharge, it needs to cycle continuously through all the sleep cycle stages.  Sometimes you might wake up exhausted even after a full eight hours of sleep at night.

As you continue reading and researching, you will understand why this happens and then take the steps necessary to prevent it by finding the appropriate products to stop your snoring.  Snoring is also associated with obesity because snoring actually makes it more difficult to lose weight.

In addition to not receiving enough rest, having unnecessary extra weight also contributes to poor health.

There are two categories that compromise quality of sleep.  The first one is a subjective sleep quality, and this when you wake up after a good night of sleep and feel well rested.  The second one is an objective sleep quality, and is a more scientific approach to analyzing sleep.

It is the precise measurement by sleep professionals or medical personnel of the time spent in different sleep phases.

The largest factors that contribute to negative results during the objective study are the number of times a person wakes up during the night and how long the person spends in the deep sleep stages.

What are the stages of sleep?

Sleep cycles in a healthy individual

Sleep cycles in a healthy individual

The stages of sleep begin when activity in the body slows down as you start to fall asleep.

The brain normally produces beta waves, electrical activity of the brain when you are conscious and alert.  The beta waves begin to slow down as you are falling asleep and transition into alpha waves.

Alpha waves are defined as the normal electrical activity of the brain when you are conscious and relaxed, but not yet sleeping.

During this phase, it is common to experience hallucinations and vivid sensations.

Typical feelings can include feeling like you are falling or hearing sounds that are not real.

Sometimes, the myoclonic jerk occurs, which is the sudden, involuntary jerking of a muscle or group of muscles.

Finally, at some point your heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperatures all decrease.  There are five stages of sleep in total:

Stage 1

sleep-stages4Stage 1 sleep is also known as the NREM 1 stage, abbreviated as N1, or commonly referred to as “dozing off”.

During stage 1 of sleep you can experience a strong desire for sleep or sleepiness, medically referred to as somnolence.

Stage 1 is the transitional phase into sleeping stages.  The alpha waves of your brain now change into theta waves, the eyes roll slowly, and muscle tone decreases.

Even though your body has begun to relax, and is much more relaxed than resting, waking period – it is unlikely your facial and throat muscles have relaxed enough to reach the point where you are able to snore.

Stage 1 generally lasts from five to ten minutes.

Stage 2

Stage 2 sleep is also known as the NREM2 stage.

During this stage the brain waves will begin to show signs of sleep.  Bursts of activity are produced by the brain, known as sleep spindles which can be seen quite clearly on an EEG (electroencephalogram).

An EEG is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain.  The machine attaches to your scalp using small, flat metal discs called electrodes.

When your brain has an electrical impulse, which is how the brain communicates, the machine records these impulses and they appear as wavy lines.  The readout from an EEG during NREM2 when sleep spindles occur are easily recognizable, as they look like mini tremors in an otherwise normal line.

During Stage 2 all the muscles in your body fully relax.  Now is when your tongue will slip into the back of your throat and create vibrations which cause your snoring.

A typical non-snoring adult will spend almost half of their entire sleeping time in the NREM2 stage.  Snorers will spend considerably more amount of time in the NREM 2 stage than they should be spending.

When the body has to work harder to get oxygen into the lungs and eventually the bloodstream throughout the night, the body will not allow you to enter the next stage of sleep.

Also, if you are experiencing any one of the three main types of apneas – obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, or complex sleep apnea – your brain will force you to wake up to breathe.

When this occurs the entire sleep process must start all over and you begin from stage 1 again.

You can see how this can quickly be a poor cycle.

For some of us, like myself, who are married our partners might wake us up because we are preventing them from sleeping due to our snoring.  When we get woken up like this, the results are the same.  We must begin the sleep cycle all over again from the beginning.

Going back and forth from stage 1 to stage 2 all night does not allow you to reach stage 3 as much as necessary.

Stage 3 is when the body actually starts to repair and recharge itself.

If you are consistently only getting to stage 2 at night, you will wake up exhausted and most likely will need an extra pick me up, such as a cup of coffee, to get started in the mornings.

Stages 3 and 4

Stages 3 and 4 of sleep are also known as the NREM3 and NREM4 stages.  During this stages is when the brain starts producing delta waves, which are very slow brain waves.

NREM3 stage is the stage when the body is transitioning into the deepest stage of sleep.  This slow wave sleep is also suggested to be the most restful sleep stage.  The body will repair, recharge, and restore itself.

There is an increase in the blood that is supplied to your muscles, the body’s tissues will grow and repair will occur.  The body will restore energy and release hormones which are the foundation for development and growth.

During this stage, sleep disorders known as parasomnias can happen.  Parasomnias are disorders that involve abnormal emotions, movements, perceptions, behaviors and dreams.

More commonly you might know them as sleep walking, night terrors, sleep talking (somniloquy), or nighttime incontinence (nocturnal enuresis).

Stage 4 sleep is the deepest sleep stage.  If the body sleeps uninterrupted for about 90 minutes you will reach the 4th stage at about this time.

The REM stage

Eye Movement In Rem Sleep by Allan Hobson

Eye Movement In Rem Sleep by Allan Hobson

The stages of REM sleep only last a short period of time, but as each cycle occurs the time you are in the REM stage gets longer.

If you are constantly bouncing back between stage 1 and stage 2 because of snoring, you will spend less time in stage 3, and considerably less time in stage 4.

Surprisingly, during the REM stage, the brain will consume more oxygen than when you are awake.  Thus, if you are snoring, your oxygen supply will decrease and there will be a small chance that the brain will receive the oxygen it needs during this stage unless it ‘takes’ the oxygen from other parts of your body.

Physical attributes during the REM stage of sleep include the eyes darting back and forth, muscles turning off, and energy being generated for the brain and body.

During the REM phase the body will burn the most calories, and the body will build a healthy immune system.

The REM stage also regulates two hormones, leptin and ghrelin.  These hormones control the appetite in your body by giving you the full feeling so you stop eating.  This is what contributes to weight gain from not reaching the REM cycle.

The most vivid dreams you have will occur during the REM stage.

Even though it is a phase of extremely deep sleeping, the body experiences paradoxical sleep.

It is so called the paradoxical sleep because the brain will elicit EEG waves as if you were awake, but you will be harder to arouse than at any other sleep stage.

Health

Low quality sleep due to snoring can be extremely damaging to your health.  Sleep deprivation causes emotional, mental and physical issues.

The mental effects due to the lack of sleep include being at risk for memory loss, impaired moral judgment, cognitive impairment, ADHD-like symptoms, severe yawning and poor concentration.

Sleep deprivation decreases the white blood cell count, which makes it harder for the immune system to control cancer.

Because the white blood cell count is reduced, it also slows the healing of wounds.

There are many other health concerns associated with sleep deprivation stages.

During a proper night of sleep, the heart slows down; however, if it does not slow down to the point that is necessary during sleep stages you will be at an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Other health concerns include being associated with type 2 diabetes, aches, tremors, decreased reaction time, growth suppression, headaches, hand tremors, fibromyalgia, seizures, and the risk of obesity.

Since you are at an increased risk of obesity, this opens the door for a myriad of other health concerns such as gall bladder disease, gout, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, asthma, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, and reproductive problems.

Final Words

conclusion2Snoring is not only about bothering the person next to you in the bed, whether that be your significant other or family in the other rooms nearby.

Every single night you snore, you put your body at risk for numerous health concerns by robbing your body of its deep sleep stages.  Your present and long term health are both at risk.

If you have been a snorer for many years, this might worry you considerably.  However, there is a solution and it could be as simple as finding an anti-snoring device that will work the best for you.

Two types of anti-snoring mouthguards, MAD (mandibular advancement device) and TRD (tongue retaining device) were created to keep your air passage free from blockage all night long.

Using these mouthpieces, your mouth and throat can then be in an awake position, so your body is not constantly going thru stage 1 and stage 2 and fighting to get the oxygen it needs.

Fortunately finding the right appliance is as easy as waking up feeling energized and refreshed.

When you wake up energized, you know you found the right device for you.

You will also start to notice an improvement in your health, and mentally a peace of mind that was not there before knowing you decreased your risk for the numerous diseases listed above.

I encourage you to fix your snoring as soon as possible, as I have done and noticed a tremendous change in the quality of my life!