As you fall asleep your brain becomes less activated than when it is awake. This starts what is known as the N-REM stage, when there is almost no dreaming and the brain is inactive.
There are generally 4 stages of Non-REM:
1 and 2 are classified as 'light'
This is when you are just falling asleep and this is when you might experience a twitching sensation. Do not be alarmed. It is quite normal. Visit our Sleep Twitching page to find out some more interesting facts about twitching.
Non-REM totals about 75–80% of overall sleep.
REM is referred to as Rapid Eye Movement because quite obviously your eyes are moving rapidly beneath your eyelids during this stage.
During REM the brain becomes re-activated, like clockwork several times a night, as it is in waking. But with a big difference.
The difference is that it is selectively re-activated.
That is, only certain parts of the brain are active.And it is during the REM stage when most of our dreaming occurs. To find out more on dreams and the brain click here.
SO when you are asleep you cycle between REM and NREM, each cycle being approximately 90 minutes. Thus, in 4.5 hours you will go through 3 cycles, in 6 hours you will experience 4 cycles, and in 9 hours you will have 6 cycles.
In between two cycles is when you are experiencing the lightest and when it is easiest for you to wake up.
So if you want to be really organized and give yourself the least amount of "getting out of bed morning stress" you can, then I suggest you plan yourself around your cycles!
For instance if you want to wake up at 6.30am it would be safest to try to rest at 9.30pm, where you would get 6 cycles, 11pm where you would get 5 cycles or 12.30pm where you would get 4 cycles.
Why do we sleep lying down?
Can you remember a time when you tried to rest upright? An economy class air travel experience perhaps?
I have had many horrible times squashed in next to somebody in cattle class trying to get a dignified night's rest. The only thing I ever ended up getting was a sore neck by morning!
Resting upright puts all sorts of strains on the muscles in your back and neck and it can also lead to bad headaches and posture problems.
Not only is it uncomfortable, but there is a physiological reason why we can't. And that is, when we fall asleep in the upright position it increases brain wave arousal, which interferes with our chances at attaining normal rest.
So if you have to travel on a plane with all the other cattle in economy class.... take my advice and invest in an orthopedic pillow. It reduces the amount of neck strains the next day! Visit a range of orthopedic travel pillows here.
Even when lying flat different people choose to rest in different positions. Scientists have claimed that not only can the position you fall asleep in affect the quality of your nights rest but apparently it can tell a lot about who you are. Want to know what your sleep positions say about you? Find out here.
While some of us are fortunate to only have problems when we try to rest upright, for 40 million people across the USA some form of sleep problem hinders the quality of shut eye they get every night.
For a complete guide on sleep problems and how to deal with them visit our Sleep Problems page now.