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Sleep and Dream Stages

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.



Sleep requirements change with age. Babies may need 16-18 hours, while school-age children and teens require about 9.5 hours. Adults usually need 7-9 hours of sleep nightly, but after the age of 60, we tend to need less sleep.

Factors that impact your sleep include:

  • Age - deep sleep lessens with age
  • Caffeine
  • Medications
  • Stress
  • Sleep disorder - such as sleep apnea

Five Stages of Sleep

The stages of sleep were first described by Alfred Lee Loomis in 1937. He and his coworkers separated the different sleep stages using an EEG (electroencephalography), which revealed five levels of sleep.

Everyone usually passes through five stages of sleep each night.

  1. Stage I is a light sleep or you drift in and out and can be easily aroused. Often during this stage people will experience sudden muscle contractions preceded by a sensation of falling.
  2. Stage II is a little deeper sleep where eye movement stops, and brain waves become slower with only an occasional burst of rapid brain waves.
  3. Stage III is where the brain waves are extremely slow, and they are called Delta waves, but they are interspersed with smaller, faster waves.
  4. Stage IV is where the brain produces Delta waves almost exclusively. Stage III and IV are both referred to as deep sleep or Delta sleep. It is very difficult to wake someone during deep sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity in deep sleep.
  5. REM sleep: Dreams occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and the rest of your body is temporarily paralyzed at this time. During dreaming your eyes are moving rapidly; your heart beats faster; your breath accelerates; blood pressure rises, and areas of your brain that you use for learning are stimulated. Brain waves during this stage are actually increased to the levels experienced when a person is awake. Most people experience 3 to 5 intervals of REM sleep each night.
Polysomnogram demonstrating SWS, stage four. High amplitude EEG is highlighted in red.

Polysomnogram demonstrating SWS, stage four. High amplitude EEG is highlighted in red.

Dreams - REM Cycle of Sleep

Rem (rapid eye movement) sleep typically occurs after you have been asleep for approximately ninety minutes. REM sleep only lasts for approximately ten minutes, but this sleep cycle occurs repeatedly throughout the night.

Your eyes do move rapidly during REM sleep, but not in the other sleep stages. While babies spend 50% of the time in REM sleep, adults only spend 20% of the night in REM sleep.

When you are not in REM sleep your heart rate slows and your body temperature drops. This is when you are going into a deeper sleep.

Understanding Our Sleep Cycle: REM and Non-REM Sleep

Process of Dreaming

Dreaming is a thinking process but on a much deeper level. Your conscious mind has slipped away, and you are very focused. Plus, you are totally honest with yourself as you figure out your life issues.

What is actually happening is you are moving information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory, so it helps you solve problems, solve information and to organize your thoughts.

Research has shown that if we constantly interrupt dreams in an individual that they will become psychotic and start seeing hallucinations, even if they get the rest of their sleep. Dreaming is essential to good mental health.

If we were not paralyzed during dreaming we would be physically acting out the dream. For some people this mechanism doesn't work correctly and oddities like sleepwalking occur, but sleepwalking is more common in deep sleep. Some studies say you can't dream while snoring, but others have not found that to be true.

Dreaming is a natural function of every mammal and bird on earth. If you own a dog you have probably seen them when you're dreaming. Interestingly enough, dogs show the same physiological cycle as humans, having REM sleep, so it is assumed they are having the same type of dreams.

Dogs Dream Too

Dogs Dream Too

Smart Watches and Trackers

There is a wide variety of new smart watches and sleep trackers that monitor your heart rate and your sleep 24/7. Some sleep monitors strap on your wrist, clip to your pillow on some sit on your nightstand.

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They can monitor sleep duration, interruptions in sleep, light, deep and REM sleep. Some can also monitor snoring due to a built-in microphone. They can also monitor lifestyle factors that you enter, which affect sleep, like whether you have eaten, consumed caffeine or if your stress level is high. Environmental factors can also be monitored, such as the temperature in your bedroom or the amount of light.

These monitors and watches can be expensive, and as always the more expensive item has a greater number of features. The sleep trackers can be useful in helping you understand the quality of your sleep.

How To Treat Insomnia Naturally Without Medication Fix Sleeping Problems

In Summary

There are several benefits to dreaming, which occurs about 2 hours nightly. Dreaming will give balance to the events that happened during the day, and the more we sleep the more we will be able to integrate things that we learned during the day. Our bodies repair themselves while we are dreaming, which improves the quality of our lives.

Mental, spiritual and emotional coping mechanisms help us develop creative solutions and new ways of thinking about our challenges, questions and problems in life are another benefit of dreaming.

It is usually easy to tell if you have not slept enough as the symptoms are irritability, mood swings, and falling asleep as you're driving home from work or maybe at your desk. It is your body's way of telling you to turn off the lights and go to sleep.

Sleep Habits


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 11, 2021:

Hi Adrienne,

I agree on the importance of sleep. The sleep trackers have helped many people understand the quality of their sleep. New studies sometimes change everything, and we don't know what is ahead.

Thank you for your comments. I hope you have a great week!

Adrienne Farricelli on October 11, 2021:

This is an informative article on such an important topic. Without sleep we can't function and lack of sleep can causes so many problems. A sleep tracker is important to ensure quality of sleep. I wonder if they are as good as sleep studies now with all the new technology.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 11, 2021:

Hi Shauna,

I was surprised at how complicated sleep could be, and I looked sat several references. I use to have that falling sensation too, but not in a long time.

Maybe dreams help us emotionally, but I really don't know if that's true either. I did repeatedly read that they are suppose to help us solve problems. I am glad that you learned a couple of new things in this article.

Maybe sleeping alone is not a bad thing for now. I am glad you liked the article. I appreciate your comments, as always. Take care.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 11, 2021:

This is an excellent article, Pamela. I learned some things I didn't know. For instance, I was unaware that we become paralyzed while in dream state.

I've experienced that falling sensation several times. It's freaky. I can feel myself sinking into my mattress, but can't pull myself up. Then it goes away as quickly as it came.

Your explanation of what happens when we dream is fascinating, but my dreams seem to be all over the place. They'll bounce from one location to the next and oftentimes I find myself in situations that would scare me in real life. For instance, sometimes the setting is a small raft or plank in dark, deep water, with large sea animals swimming beneath me. In real life that would send me into panic mode. My point is, I don't solve problems when I dream. They don't make much sense. Also, people who have passed often appear in my dreams, sometimes en masse.

I used to talk in my sleep, too, like Misbah. I have no idea if I still do or not because I sleep alone. Tee hee.

Really great article, Pamela. Like Linda said in her comment, I think you've only scratched the surface.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 09, 2021:

Hi Farah,

I agree that sleep is a recharging your mind and body. I am glad you found the article information.

Thank you so much for your comments.

Farah N Huq from Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 09, 2021:

Sleep indeed is a very important part for mental and physical well being. It's like recharging your mind and body. A very informative article!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 06, 2021:

Hi Lady Dazy,

I wonder if what you describe is more of a habit. I find I wake up early no matter how little sleep I get too.

I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 06, 2021:

Hi Nithya,

I am glad you found this article interesting and informative. I have found if I do wake up and remember a dream within a short time I have forgotten it.

Thank you for your comments.


Lady Dazy from UK on October 06, 2021:

Interesting article, I always find it strange when I sleep well some nights and very badly other nights. I always get up at the same time and usually do about the same amount of activities each day.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on October 05, 2021:

An interesting and informative article about sleep and dream stages. I sometimes remember dreams but most of the time I cannot. Thank you for sharing this detailed and well-presented article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Linda,

My daughter-in-law is reading a book called breathe. Se says in the book people that snore can put tape (I think a type if take used on wounds) crosswise over the lips and it stops snowing. I don't know that this works for everyone, but I wanted to mention ir.

You might try magnesium at bedtime. Maybe a prescription for bedtime temporarily at bedtime would help.I think talking to your doctor might help. It sure cannot hurt. I am not sure about what your daughter has read as I have not read that.

OTC medications tend to have antihistamines, like Benadryl or Melatonin, so they are not a good long term remedy but may help temporarily.

I hope you can get your lack of sleep problem resolved, Linda.

]I appreciate your comments, as always.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 05, 2021:

Pamela, I can't remember the last time I got a truly good night's sleep. I have a husband who snores (he sounds like a tuba), but he doesn't have sleep apnea (yes, he's been tested). But that's not the only problem. I usually fall asleep easily, but by midnight or 1 a.m. I awaken, and my brain begins to spin. No matter what, I can't seem to get back to good restful sleep.

How am I doing? Terribly. I don't know how to fix this. Perhaps once we get moved and get our "old" house sold my life will quiet down and so will my sleep patterns.

My daughter told me that she had heard that a lack of good sleep when you are young (i.e. younger than you and me) can cause you physical problems later in life.

I really appreciate this article, but it seems you've only scratched the surface.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Heidi,

I agree that it is good that we paralyzed during our dreams. I have woken up in such a dream and being paralyzed was scary. Fortunately that was a long time ago.

I am glad you liked the article. I appreciate your comments, as always. Keep smiling Heidi!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on October 05, 2021:

It's a good thing we're "paralyzed" during our dreams. Imagine if we weren't! Thanks for the overview of this important health topic!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Rozlin,

I am glad you learned something new from this article. I very much appreciate your comments.

Blessings for you too!

Rozlin from UAE on October 05, 2021:

This is a well written and well presented article on sleep, Pamela. I learnt a lot and enjoyed reading too. Thank you for sharing.

Blessings always!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I have seem a dog dreaming and it does make you smile. I am glad you found this information interesting.

Thank you for your comments. Take care!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Devika,

It is good to hear from you. I'll bet you had a wonderful time in South Africa. Your dream sounds happy.

I am glad you found this article to be interesting. I appreciate your comment, as always. Take care!

Amara from Pakistan on October 05, 2021:

Very useful and informative article Pamela. Worth reading, and well written. Thanks for sharing.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 05, 2021:

I think that sleep is a fascinating phenomenon. I had to smile when you mentioned watching a dog dreaming. It can be an interesting activity! Thank you for sharing the information, Pamela.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 05, 2021:

Hi Pamela99 This is valuable information about sleep and dreams. I dream about what I had experienced on my holiday in South Africa. It is different for everyone and you have put together an interesting topic to make us wonder about our dreams. Thank you

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Umesh,

I am glad you liked the article.Thank you for your comments. Much appreciated!

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on October 05, 2021:

Pamela, you have explained and expressed it so nicely. Thanks for this informative and useful article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

Our sleep patterns definitely change as we age. I think it is pretty common to not remember your dreams.

I am glad you liked the article.

If you feel pretty good, then you are probably getting enough sleep, even though it is not as much as you use to get.

I appreciate your comments, as always.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

I am glad. you found this article to be informative. It is common to not remember our dreams.

I appreciate your nice comments. Keep on smiling!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 05, 2021:


I need one of those gadgets.

I'm sure I don't get the sleep I need & I very rarely remember dresms anymore.

It takes me quite awhile to fall asleep, but once I'm asleep I usually sleep for awhile.

I didn't realize we didn't need as much sleep after the age of 60.

Maybe that's it.

Great article.

Rosina S Khan on October 05, 2021:

This is a very informative article about dreams and sleep. I found them fascinating.

I usually have a good sleep nowadays but don't seem to remember any of my dreams.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful article, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I am glad this article helped to understand your Fitbit information. Fitbit is used by most people I know, but I don't have one.

I appreciate your comments. Happy Tuesday to you too!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

I have several family members who track their sleep with Fitbit. It is nice to know all that data. Dreaming is healthy as it helps us with effective thinking and I think with our emotional health. Not remembering dreams is common, and it does not mean we don't dream.

Thank you so much for your comments.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 05, 2021:

My Fitbit tells me the amount of time I spend at the different levels of sleep, but until reading this article I had no ideas what any of that meant. Thanks so much for the useful information, and Happy Tuesday to you.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 05, 2021:

Excellent information about the sleep patterns, and dreaming. Nice to know the details about the sleep stages.

I do track my sleep, heart rate etc. with my Fitbit. My sleep pattern is fairly good, although on some days, it isn’t. The reasons can be many.

I have read somewhere, that dreaming is good for health. Is it so?

I do dream a lot, but don’t remember any of them, after waking up.

Thank you for sharing another wonderful and educative article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Zeenat,

I am glad you found the article informative. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Peggy,

It's strange how some remember t heir dreams and others do not. I use tobut don't now. I think dreams are interesting. Your sleep pattern sounds like most people with occsasional night of poor sleep.

I appreciate your comments.

Zeenat on October 05, 2021:

This was an interesting and informative read. Thank you!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 05, 2021:

Generally speaking, I sleep well, although I do have the occasional night when that does not happen. I remember many of my dreams while my husband rarely remembers any of his. The various stages of sleep is fascinating.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I have similar sleep habits like you. I am always up very early and I sleep less than I use to. That is fairly common as we age. I don't remember dreams either. I'm not sure why that is for many people.

Thank you so much for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

It is funny that you and your brother talk in your sleep, then get teased. That is not uncommon. I'm sorry you have had insomnia for the past few months. You might try taking a magnesium table before bed as it seems to help some people.

I appreciate your comments.

Love and many blessings!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2021:

Hi Ms. Dora,

I'm glad you have no problem sleeping. I'm also glad you understand the dream process.

Thank you for your comments.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 05, 2021:

Great info Pam. I usually have no problem falling asleep, but I wake up early and then can’t fall back to sleep. I’m sure that I dream but I never remember any dreams, which is disappointing . As I have gotten older I definitely sleep less and now probably average maybe 6 to 6.5 hours per night.

Misbah Sheikh on October 05, 2021:

Pamela, this is so informative and interesting article about stages of sleep and dreams. I love it when my muscles contract before falling asleep. Isn't it amazing how God designed the human body system? I've had horrible insomnia for the past 5 months, but I'm relieved to say that things are improving. The video you shared was intriguing. The REM stage is likewise an enthralling experience. I used to speak while sleeping when I was a child and still do. Because of this, my siblings and parents frequently tease me. One of my brothers also speaks when he sleeps. My parents always say that if somebody wants to know anything about me or my brother, they should question us while we are asleep as we say everything we typically hide or don't want to share usually. Lol!

I enjoyed reading your today's article. Thank you for sharing. God bless you. Amen!

Love and Hugs to you

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 05, 2021:

Pamela, I've never had a problem sleeping, thank God. Thanks especially for explaining the dream process. I never understood that until now.

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