Types of Sleep: How to Wake Up Feeling Well-Rested

There are several different states and stages of sleep (known as your “sleep architecture”), and some leave you feeling more rested than others. Your “sleep architecture” follows a predictable pattern of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Each of these states alternates approximately every 90 minutes. Read on to learn more about the different stages of sleep and how you can wake up feeling refreshed and well rested.

Types of Sleep

Non-REM Sleep

Stage 1: Light sleep; easily awakened; muscles relax with occasional twitches; eye movements are slow. Stage 2: Eye movements stop; slower brain waves with occasional bursts of rapid brain waves. Stage 3: Occurs mostly in the first half of the night. Deep sleep; difficult to awaken; large, slow brain waves; heart and respiratory rates are slow; and muscles are relaxed.

REM Sleep

  • Usually first occurs about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and longer, deeper periods occur during the second half of the night; cycles along with the non-REM stages throughout the night.

  • Eyes move rapidly behind closed eyelids.

  • Breathing, heart rate and blood pressure are irregular.

  • Dreaming occurs.

  • Arm and leg muscles are temporarily paralyzed.

The third stage of non-REM sleep is the deepest sleep phase—it’s the one that makes you feel well rested and energetic the next day. This stage of sleep is also when the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle and strengthens the immune system. 

Although our need for sleep does not change as we grow older, sleep can become more challenging in later adulthood. For women, the onset of menopause brings hormonal changes that can disrupt sleep. Many older adults find it difficult to stay asleep at night, or they may have a pattern of waking up very early in the morning.

Many adults experience occasional sleeplessness, which may be referred to as short-term insomnia, adjustment insomnia, stress-related insomnia, transient psychophysiological insomnia, transient insomnia or adjustment disorder. Life experiences that can be stressful, such as job loss, death of a family member or normal life transitions and phases, can upset sleep and make restful nights elusive. Short periods of difficulty falling or staying asleep are somewhat common and do not necessarily occur hand-in-hand with a major medical condition.

If you suffer from occasional sleeplessness, an over-the-counter sleep medication such as ZzzQuil Liquid or ZzzQuil LiquiCaps can help. Both contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine known to help treat occasional sleeplessness.

Sweet dreams!