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Sleep Cycles

What is the Sleep/Wake Cycle?

There’s a reason that your eyelids start to feel heavy in the evening, and pop open in the morning—sometimes even before you’ve gotten enough sleep. Blame it on your sleep/wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythm). The sleep/wake cycle is a daily pattern that determines when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake. For most humans, the ideal cycle includes seven to nine hours of sleep (typically at night) followed by 15 to 17 hours of wakefulness. The body has a series of processes that set the stage for this cycle. For example, different chemicals and hormones rise and fall over the course of roughly 24 hours, causing you to…

Understanding Sleep Cycles: What Happens While You Sleep

Learn what is really going on in your body while you’re getting your zzz’s. Before the 1950’s, scientists used to believe that as people drifted off to sleep, their brains and bodies would go into “shutdown” mode, entering a passive state that allowed them to recover from the previous day. What researchers have since learned: Sleep is a whole lot more complicated, and it’s a much more active state than you might think. In fact, while you’re getting your zzz’s, your brain goes through various patterns of activity. It’s a predictable cycle that includes two distinct parts – NREM, or Non-REM sleep, plus a REM or “Rapid Eye Movement” cycle. Check out what happens in…

Sleep Cycles: Everything You Need to Know

Find out what’s happening in your brain while you’re fast asleep. Your body may be still while you sleep, but your brain is actually pretty active. In fact, it goes back and forth between two phases: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is when dreams typically happen, and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which is when the body bolsters your immune system, builds muscle and bone, and mends and regenerates tissues. Your brain first enters four different stages of NREM sleep and then goes through REM, and this whole pattern is considered one cycle. The cycles repeat themselves until you wake up—usually after about five full cycles. Find out what goes on step-by-step, below.