Sleep is an essential function that allows our bodies to recharge, refresh and be alert for the next day! It’s also crucial for our brain health. The alarming part is that many Americans struggle with a lack of sleep each night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 1/3 of Americans don’t get enough sleep.1 It doesn’t have to be this way! 

Ideally, you spend at least 1/3 of your life asleep yet so many people struggle falling and/or staying asleep, also known as insomnia. Insomnia is linked to reduced REM sleep, which is the deepest of the stages of sleep that I will discuss shortly. There are many reasons why insomnia is so widespread and the quality of your sleep is influenced by a wide array of factors including your hormones and lifestyle. 

If you’re lacking quality sleep, it is detrimental to your overall health. Your risk of developing chronic issues including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity increases dramatically. It can especially impact your brain health – memory, learning and creativity can all be affected.

Don’t worry! I am about to tell you how you can get my go-to tools for optimal sleep and brain health. First, let’s discuss the four stages of sleep and how they benefit your brain health. 

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The Four Stages of Sleep 

Let’s say that you sleep 6 hours every night. During those six hours, you go through several cycles of sleep. Typically your body goes through 4 to 6 different cycles of sleep each night that lasts on average about 90 minutes each. In each cycle, you will go through any or all of the four stages of sleep.2 

The 4 stages of sleep are categorized as either non-REM sleep or REM sleep and include NREM (N1 & N2), slow wave sleep (SWS), and Rapid Eye Movement (REM). REM sleep is the most important cycle for brain health. I’m about to tell you why as I talk about each of the four stages of sleep. 

Brain Health: The Four Stages of Sleep – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®Brain Health: The Four Stages of Sleep - Infographic - Amy Myers MD® Health: The Four Stages of Sleep – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®

Stage 1: NREM (N1) 

This stage of sleep is the transition from being awake to being asleep. It is characterized by a slowed heartbeat, slowed breathing, eye movements, and brain activity. Your muscles also begin to relax and may twitch, however your body isn’t fully relaxed yet. Stage 1 typically lasts from five to 10 minutes once you are asleep.

It’s easy to wake up someone in this stage of sleep, however they can move quickly into stage 2 if they aren’t disturbed. You spend the least amount of time in this stage during sleep. 

Stage 2: NREM (N2) 

This is the second stage of sleep after you leave N1. This stage typically lasts for about 20 minutes, however it can last longer. During this stage, you are in a more subdued state. Your body temperature drops, your heartbeat and breathing slows down. 

While your body is slowing down, your brain is still active with short bursts of activity.3 These bursts of activity are important because they help you to not be woken up by external stimuli. This stage of sleep can last for 10 to 25 minutes during the first sleep cycle, however each N2 stage gets longer throughout the night. About half of your sleep time is at this stage. 

Stage 3: Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS) 

This stage of sleep is known as deep sleep. This is the most important stage of sleep in order to feel refreshed in the morning. Your breathing and heart rate reach their lowest levels in the slow-wave sleep stage. Brain activity during this stage has an identifiable pattern of short waves that are known as delta waves. This is where this stage gets its name and is sometimes referred to as delta sleep. 

Sleep experts believe that this stage is the most critical stage of sleep for recovery and growth. It’s also believed that this stage of sleep promotes a healthy immune system and supports brain health.4 Think of this stage of sleep as a bath for your brain. In this stage of sleep, your brain releases cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Studies have shown this fluid helps clean your brain and helps with memory consolidation, where new memories are transferred into long-term storage.5  

You spend the most time in SWS sleep for the first half of the night. During the early sleep cycles, SWS sleep lasts for 20 to 40 minutes. However, as you continue sleeping, the time spent in this stage gets shorter, and more time is spent in REM sleep instead. 

Stage 4: Rapid-Eye Movement (REM) 

REM sleep is the stage where most dreaming occurs, although you can dream at any stage of sleep. However, they are less common and intense during the early non-REM stages. This stage gets its name because even though your eyes are closed, they can be seen moving quickly if someone opened your eyelids. 

Brain activity resembles its normal pattern as when you are awake. As I mentioned earlier, this stage is the most critical to your brain’s health.6 REM sleep supports brain health by improving memory, learning, and creativity.7

This works directly with the memory consolidation done in SWS sleep. With the open space created from the consolidation, your brain begins to form connections between unrelated ideas and retain new memories.8 

At the same time, your body experiences temporary paralysis. Don’t worry, though. Your muscles that control breathing and eye movement continue to work as they normally do. 

Normally, you don’t reach this stage until you’ve been asleep for about 90 minutes. REM stages last longer the longer you are asleep. Later stages of REM sleep can last for an hour. Babies and children spend about 50% of their sleep in REM stages, while adults only spend about 25% sleep in this stage.  

The four stages of sleep work together to allow your brain and body to recover and develop. Not getting enough SWS and REM sleep affects your brain health and overall wellbeing.9 If you are frequently woken up during the early stages of sleep, you may struggle to reach the deeper sleep stages. 

How Much Sleep Do You Need for Brain Health

The amount of sleep you need for brain health depends greatly on your age. As you get older, your body and brain require less sleep to recover and develop. For example, a child between the ages of 0 to 5 needs between 10 to 14 hours of sleep each day, including naps.10 However, adults typically need 7 hours or more for optimal sleep.11

While the total number of sleeping hours is important, the amount of time spent in the deep sleep stages is also essential. Having at least two hours of sleep in the deep sleep stages promotes optimal brain health. How can you make that happen? I’ll tell you.

Benefits of Sleep for Brain Health

I’ve told you about the four stages of sleep and how much sleep you need, yet what does that really do for your body? I’ll tell you! Inadequate sleep can impact your heart health, brain health, slow down your metabolism, cause depression and anxiety, and make you moody. Here are 10 benefits of sleep: 

  1. Boosts your metabolism
  2. Supports your mental health
  3. Promotes brain health
  4. Supports your immune system
  5. Makes your heart stronger
  6. Puts you in a better mood
  7. Increases productivity during the day
  8. Improves memory
  9. Builds protein molecules 
  10. Reduces inflammation

How to Optimize Deep Sleep for Brain Health

Modern society bombards you with everyday stressors that affect sleep cycles and negatively impacts your brain health. Poor sleep habits, including not going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, can have a negative impact on your sleep. Here are the four biggest culprits that affect your sleep:

  • Light: We’re surrounded by bright lights and technology that delays your sleep cycles.
  • Stress: Everyday stress can lead to less time in deep sleep, and even short-term stressors decrease sleep efficiency, and impair the processing of fact-based memories.
  • Diet: Refined sugar, caffeine, and alcohol negatively impact your quality of rest. 
  • Aging: Most people find that they have a harder time falling asleep as they age, possibly as a result of magnesium deficiency. 

The best way to get enough sleep is to follow 3 simple steps for optimal sleep. 

  1. Eat these – Foods rich in tryptophan, magnesium, and melatonin. Turkey, chicken, shellfish are great sources of tryptophan, while bananas, avocados, and green leafy vegetables contain a lot of magnesium. Your body naturally produces melatonin, however you can also get it from pork, salmon and cherries.
  2. Skip these – Fatty foods, rich proteins, chocolate, alcohol and coffee, and over-the-counter medications that could contain hidden caffeine and sugar. Check your labels! 
  3. Get tired naturally – Having a regular sleep schedule, waking up early and going to bed early, exercising, and creating a bedtime routine are great ways to promote optimal sleep. 

If you’re a hot sleeper like me, I cool down at night with help from my Cube Sleep System with Chilipad® Cool Mesh™ by Sleep.Me. It matches my body’s core temperature to improve the quality of your sleep and comfort level. I use mine every night.

Now I’m going to tell you about two powerful tools that I use to help me get optimal sleep for my own brain health: Rest and Restore™ and Rest and Restore Max™

Rest and Restore™

Rest and Restore™ is a physician-formulated combination of amino acids and minerals designed to support falling asleep fast and promoting deep, restful sleep for brain health. Reaching SWS and REM sleep stages is vital to maintaining optimal brain health and feeling rested when you wake up.

With optimal levels of magnesium, Rest and Restore™ even helps support relaxation during the daytime by facilitating a healthy stress response and relieving the occasional muscle tension. When you are less stressed during the day it will increase your sleep efficiency to improve brain health.

Rest and Restore™ also includes L-Theanine, a unique amino acid found in green tea. L-Theanine promotes an alpha brainwave pattern often associated with a state of calm, such as meditating, or reading a good book on your day off.

Another key ingredient in Rest and Restore™ is Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter inhibitor that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain. It is essential for optimal brain health and promotes production of alpha brain waves as well. 

Rest and Restore Max™

Rest and Restore Max™  is a physician-formulated blend of ingredients to maximize optimal sleep and promote a natural sleep pattern.  Not only does it contain the same ingredients as Rest and Restore™, it also features three additional essential ingredients to help those who have particular difficulty falling and staying asleep –  melatonin, valerian root, and 5-Hydroxytryptophan.

Your body naturally produces the hormone melatonin, which plays an important role in regulating your sleep cycle. However,  your body only produces a very small amount of melatonin – about 0.2 mg – which may not be enough for optimal sleep. I’ve included 3 mg of melatonin in Rest and Restore Max™ to support a healthy sleep pattern.

Valerian Root is a natural stress reliever! Studies show that valerian may be able to increase the amount of GABA in your body by causing GABA to release from brain nerve endings, and then blocking it from being taken back into nerve cells.So if you need that extra boost of stress relief during a particularly tough period in your life, Rest and Restore Max™ may be the better option for you.

Finally, I include optimal amounts of 5-HTP, a natural amino acid your body produces that is essential for optimal brain health. Research suggests that 5-HTP naturally supports healthy serotonin levels. The brain produces Serotonin to help you relax in stressful situations. 

If you’re just looking for support to help you relax and unwind then I recommend using Rest and Restore™. If you want to promote a healthy sleep pattern for brain health, then I recommend using Rest and Restore Max™

Getting enough sleep in the deep sleep stages is essential for brain health. Remember, the longer you are asleep plays a role in how much deep sleep you get. If you’ve been having a hard time getting quality sleep, you’re not alone. The empowering part is that you can use these tools to get restful, restorative sleep for your brain health.

FAQs About Sleep

How does sleep benefit the body?

Inadequate sleep can impact your heart health, brain health, slow down your metabolism, cause depression and anxiety, and make you moody. Studies show that the benefits of sleep include: boosting your metabolism, improves memory, productivity and your mood.

How much sleep do you need?

A child between the ages of 0 to 5 needs between 10 to 14 hours of sleep each day, including naps. However, adults typically need 7 hours or more for optimal sleep.

What are the four stages of sleep?

The 4 stages of sleep are categorized as either non-REM sleep or REM sleep and include NREM (N1 & N2), slow wave sleep (SWS), and Rapid Eye Movement (REM). REM sleep is the most important cycle for brain health.

Bottle of Rest and Restore Max

Article Sources

  1. 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. 2016.
  2. Stages of Sleep. Eric Suni. Sleep Foundation. 2020.
  3. Sleep spindles. Monika Schönauer and Dorothee Pöhlchen. National Library of Medicine. 2018.
  4. Differential associations of early- and late-night sleep with functional brain states promoting insight to abstract task regularity. Juliana Yordanova, Vasil Kolev, Ullrich Wagner, and Rolf Verleger. National Library of Medicine. 2010.
  5. Deep Sleep Gives Your Brain a Deep Clean. Simon Makin. Scientific American. 2019.
  6. Sleep, Learning, and Memory. Dr. Robert Stickgold. Harvard Medical School. 2007.
  7. How lack of sleep affects a creative mind. Joselyne John. We Heart. 2019.
  8. How lack of sleep affects a creative mind. Joselyne John. We Heart. 2019.
  9. Sleep Deprivation: What it is, its causes, symptoms, and long-term effects on physical, mental, and emotional health. Eric Suni. Sleep Foundation. 2020.
  10. Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Shalini Paruthi, MD, Lee J. Brooks, MD, Carolyn D'Ambrosio, MD, Wendy A. Hall, PhD, RN, Suresh Kotagal, MD, Robin M. Lloyd, MD, Beth A. Malow, MD, MS, Kiran Maski, MD, Cynthia Nichols, PhD, Stuart F. Quan, MD, Carol L. Rosen, MD, Matthew M. Troester, DO, and Merrill S. Wise, MD. National Library of Medicine. 2016.
  11. How Much Sleep Do I Need?. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. 2017.