Each stage has different effects on your body - from physical restoration during deep sleep, to memory consolidation during dreams. All together, these stages add up to about 90-110 minutes, making up one complete sleep cycle.
We used to identify five stages of sleep (as above) but recently Stages 3 and 4 have been grouped together for their similarities. NREM Stage 2 is marked by a loss of nearly all muscle tone so your physical body can't act out your forthcoming dreams. NREM Stage 3 and 4 is known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), consisting of unconscious delta activity. Your longest and most memorable lucid dreams usually occur in the fourth and fifth sleep cycles of the night - after about six hours of sleep - during the REM sleep stages. If you don't wake up to an alarm, you'll find you often wake directly from a dream, which makes it much easier to remember. This graph also shows how it's essential for lucid dreamers to get sufficient shuteye and not miss out on REM sleep by cutting sleep short.
What's also important is to look at how you're waking up - ie, after how many sleep cycles.
Fortunately, there is a growing array of sleep tech to achieve this without being two hours late for work every day.
The brainwave readings tell us that REM sleep at the end of the first sleep cycle lasts only a few minutes. The sleep and dream cycle varies between individuals, but the majority of health people show a consistent pattern illustrated by the graphs above. A person will experience a higher degree of dream recall when they are healthy, go to sleep at the same time each night, and wake up naturally after a full night of sleep. Now here is something that I never considered when I started the Sealy Sleep Ambassador campaign.
Of course, I’d heard about REM (rapid eye movement) sleep before and have read reports of how not getting enough can have serious consequences on my health. I sort of just thought that it was a fact of getting older that I don’t remember my dreams like I did when I was a child.

Furthermore, I thought that because I survive with a minimal number hours of sleep every night, the number of sleep ‘cycles’ are less – therefore also reducing my ability to remember my dreams.
Little did I expect that even the very first time I slept on our new Sealy mattress, I would wake mid way through one of the most lucid dreams I’ve ever had in my life. With the number of hours sleep come a direct correlation with the number of ‘sleep cycles’ – for example a newborn baby will have up to 12 sleep cycles, while the average adult will experience just 4 or 5. So therein lies my first problem – not enough sleep = not enough sleep cycles = not enough REM sleep = shorter and less memorable dreams.
This was also a very vicious cycle – I have discovered that even mild pain can disrupt the sleep cycles, and there are good data to suggest that not enough REM sleep makes the pain worse!!
According to Gilles Lavigne, DDS, MSc, FRCD, “Severe pain can make you bolt upright from a sound sleep. Since that very first nap the Sunday before last, I continue to dream every time I sleep… I continue to remember much about my dreams, and even more – when I wake from a dream to use the bathroom and go back to sleep, the dreams just continue immediately – this is a sure sign of high quality REM sleep. For me, REM Sleep is no longer an acronym for ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ Sleep… it now stands for ‘Really Enjoy My’ Sleep!! One other important piece of trivia that I’ve picked up, is that “in today’s performance-obsessed society, people often cite Napoleon, Louis XIV, and Churchill as examples of high achievers who supposedly slept only a few hours each night. Finally – now that I am getting some seriously high quality REM sleep, I will be closely monitoring my blood pressure over coming weeks. Although your brainwaves have slowed further, they do show brief bursts of higher brainwave activity called sleep spindles and K-complexes. It's known as paradoxical sleep because the sleeper, though showing more active brainwaves than before, is harder to awaken.
These gadgets and apps can track your sleep cycles and wake you only once a cycle is complete. Dreams are directly correlated to REM sleep - to the extent that your eyes can move and track in the same direction you are looking in the dream.
Much of the first cycle is dedicated to non-REM sleep, driven by the need for physical rest. By morning, your fourth or fifth sleep cycle (ending when you wake up for the day) may allow for 45-60 minutes of uninterrupted REM sleep.

This cycle is most apparent while we sleep because each cycle includes a period of deep sleep, and a period of REM sleep. There are genetic reasons why some individuals require less sleep, but not just a few hours a night. The more sleep cycles, the longer the duration of REM sleep and lucid, memorable dreams will become more common. Nor does it explain why the very first time I had a nap on my new Sealy mattress (2-hours duration) that I had probably the most vivid and real dream that I can remember in my lifetime. Although I had experienced some level of improvement in the way I felt each morning and seemed to be achieving more continuous sleep through just sleeping on a hard surface, I was missing out on the crucial cycles required to achieve prolonged periods of REM sleep. I’ve mentioned before about the Sealy technologies and patents, and used terms such as “Posture Channels” and “Pressure Relief Inlays”… all I know is that I can dream again!! If you are woken from REM sleep you're more likely to jump right back in during a later nap. Sleeping-in allows extended REM time in the morning, more vivid dreams, and more chances to become lucid.
At the end of each Ultradian Rhythm, there is a short period of wakefulness when the person can adjust their sleep position before falling back into sleep.
My habit (for a long time) has been to work like a trooper on weekdays and then ‘binge’ sleep on Saturday mornings (sometimes Friday night’s sleep would last as long as 12+ hours) – this is obviously unacceptable and I don’t do it anymore because it takes away quality time from my family and shortens the weekend by a quarter. These are periods when your pain breaks through and bumps you back into the light sleep stage. Another dreamless stage of sleep, it is actually the most likely time for sleepwalking to occur. REM sleep deprivation impairs our ability to learn complex tasks and form long term memories. Each subsequent ultradian rhythm requires less deep sleep, and so the REM period becomes longer.

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