Sleep Cycle Calculator
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Getting a good night’s sleep is all about how you feel when you wake up. Right?
Imagine a Saturday morning when you open your eyes naturally (no alarm) and how peaceful that feels. Now imagine when your alarm goes off Monday morning and how hard it is to get out of bed. The interesting thing is that it’s not necessarily because you got less sleep. In fact, it has more to do with where you are in your sleep cycle when you wake up.
In this article, we explore the phases of your natural sleep cycle, when to sleep, and how to wake up refreshed. We look at how many hours of sleep are recommended and how to use a sleep cycle calculator (such as the one here) to find the best time to wake up.
What is a sleep cycle?
To put it simply, a sleep cycle is what your brain does while you’re getting your zzz’s. As you sleep, your brain goes through various patterns of activity. These patterns are based on distinct eye movements and muscle activity. In fact, sleep scientists have tracked these movements and found two main sleep cycle categories: rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep.
How long is a sleep cycle?
Your natural sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. During this time your brain moves through five different stages.
- Your brain begins to slow down. You are lightly sleeping, drifting in and out.
- Your eye movement stops and the brain begins to relax. This is a period of light sleep before you enter a deep sleep.
- Your brain waves begin to slow even more. They are preparing for the deepest stages of sleep.
- This is the deepest stage of sleep. It’s important for you to reach this stage for a good night’s sleep and it’s also important that you are not awoken during this stage. That will make for a very grouchy morning.
- This is the rapid-eye-movement (REM) stage of sleep. Most of your dreaming occurs during this time. Again, make sure you are not awoken during this stage because you will likely feel disoriented.
BACK TO STAGE 1
(hence the word cycle)
Here you will start the sleep cycle over. This is also the best time to wake up and feel refreshed!
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How Many Sleep Cycles Should You Get Each Night?A typical night’s sleep consists of about 5-6 full sleep cycles. But each of these sleep cycles is different from one another. During the first 2-3 sleep cycles, you spend most of the time in a deep NREM sleep. In the final 2-3 sleep cycles, you will spend more time in REM sleep and stage one light sleep. By using a sleep cycle calculator (such as the one here), you can time your alarm to go off during your lightest sleeping period. Using a sleep calculator can help you stay on top of any signs of sleep deprivation you might be facing.
How long is a REM Cycle?
The REM stage of sleep is unique because it’s when you have your most vivid dreams. During your first cycle of sleep, it starts about 90 minutes after you fall asleep and last only 10 minutes. Each cycle after that, your REM sleep gets longer and longer. In the final cycle is may last up to an hour.
During your REM sleep cycle, your eyes are darting around and “seeing” different things. Your brain is also converting experiences into memories. Furthermore, it enhances your ability for creative problem-solving. These are all important reasons to make sure your alarm doesn’t wake you up during this crucial stage of sleep.
How many hours of sleep is recommended?Everybody has their own internal clock and individuals have various sleep needs. Nonetheless, there are certain factors which affect how many hours of sleep you need. Through regularly using a sleep calculator to establish a fixed time can help you fix a disturbed sleep schedule. For instance, sleep quality, age, exercise, stress, environmental conditions, and pregnancy. But overall, age is the greatest factor. Below are some general guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation, recommending the amount of sleep each age group needs.
- Newborns14 to 17 hours
- Infants14 to 17 hours
- Toddlers11 to 14 hours
- Pre-Schoolers10 to 13 hours
- School-Aged Children10 to 13 hours
- Teenagers8 to 10 hours
- Young Adults7 to 9 hours
- Adults7 to 9 hours
- Older Adults7 to 8 hours