How Long Is A Sleep Cycle? A Closer Look At The Sleep Cycle

Last Updated on December 28, 2023 by Richard

So, you say your sleep cycle isn’t long enough? How long is a sleep cycle for most people? Here are the facts.

Sleep is one of the most important things you can do in order to have a healthy mind and body.

If you’ve ever doubted that statement, then go without one or two nights of sleep and you’ll quickly see how much it is needed.

Now, you may be wondering, exactly what happens when you go to bed at night?

In this article, we will cover the sleep cycle, its entire length as well as a few tips and guidelines that can help you to get better quality of sleep every night.

Girl sleeping with a stuffed bear. Which part of the sleep cycle is she in?

Beautyrest Sleeptracker Monitor – Wearable-Free Sleep Tracker – Intuitive App and Alexa Enabled

Beautyrest Sleeptracker Monitor – Wearable-Free Sleep Tracker – Intuitive App and Alexa Enabled. See it at Amazon 

How Long Is A Sleep Cycle?

There are five stages in a sleep cycle, and a cycle lasts 90 minutes.

During that time, you move through 5 stages of sleep. The first 4 stages of the cycle is called NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. The fifth stage is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

We will quickly look at an overview of each stage.

The Five Stages Of The Sleep Cycle

White Noise Generator, Rain Sound Machine for Sleeping, Baby Soother - Portable White Noise Machine for Office Privacy & Noise Canceling, Sound Machine Battery Operated or Plug-in Nature Noise Maker

White Noise Generator, Rain Sound Machine for Sleeping, Baby Soother – Portable White Noise Machine for Office Privacy & Noise Canceling, Sound Machine Battery Operated or Plug-in Nature Noise Maker. See it at Amazon 

Stage 1: This stage represents approximately 4% of the 90 minute cycle and here you experience light sleep where your muscle activity starts to slow down. You may experience some light muscle twitching at this stage.

Stage 2: This stage takes up 45 – 55% of the cycle which is the majority of it and your breathing as well as your heart rate slows down. Typically, there’s a slight decrease in body temperature.

Stage 3: This accounts for only 4 – 6% of the cycle and it represents your deep sleep. At this time, your brain generates slow delta waves.

Stage 4: This stage is 12 – 15% of your sleep cycle and in this stage you will enter extremely deep sleep. There is very limited muscle activity and rhythmic breathing. Your brain will also produce delta waves.

Stage 5: The final stage represents 20 – 25% of the sleep cycle and in this stage the brainwaves speed up and dreams tend to occur. There is also rapid eye movement, the heart rate increases and breathing becomes rapid and shallow.

These five stages occur over a 90 minute period of sleep.

Now, as mentioned previously, the first 4 stages are NREM sleep. You will basically move from falling asleep to light and then deep sleep.

A person who is in stage 4 is typically very challenging to wake up. In these stages, there is not much muscle activity and little to no movement of the eyes.

Rem Sleep

In REM sleep, this is the final stage of the sleep cycle where there is typically a lot of eye movement. There is no known explanation for the rapid eye movements.  However, it is thought that this is caused by interacting in dreams.

While your eyes are able to move, the majority of your body remains paralyzed.  With the exception of the important muscles, such as your heart and diaphragm.  Which continue functioning normally so you are kept alive.


Parents and baby sleeping.  How long is a sleep cycle for adults and babies?  Answer: 90 minutes and 60 minutes.

How long is a sleep cycle for adults and babies? Answer: 90 minutes and 60 minutes.

What Happens At Night During The Sleep Cycle?

Now, you may be thinking that since a sleep cycle is 90 minutes, then a night’s sleep may consist of 4 – 6 of these cycles.

However, it’s not as straightforward as that. In the course of an entire night’s sleep, the amount of time spent in each stage of sleep, starts to change.

Typically speaking, in the first 2 to 3 sleep cycles of the night, most people spend the majority of that time in stages 3 – 4 of the sleep cycle (NREM sleep). The last 2 – 3 cycles of the night are then spent in REM sleep.

Sleep is quite complex since the amount of NREM to REM sleep you get per night is also dependent on the time of night, and where each individual is in their own sleep.

So, if you fall asleep between 11pm – 3am then you will likely experience more NREM sleep in the earlier hours and REM sleep between 3am – 7am.

As a result, people that have a tendency to be night owls and fall asleep later in the night will get more REM sleep than people who typically go to bed earlier in the night.

There is much complexity in sleep and it is still quite a mystery to many scientists.


How Sleep Changes Across The Lifespan

Most typical adults sleep around 8 hours per night, however, the amount of time a person needs to sleep is totally individual. While one person may be fine with 7 hours of sleep, another person may need at least 9 hours.

Teenagers in general need a bit more sleep than most adults.  They tend to need about 9 hours of sleep per night in order to be properly functional the next day.

Sleep needs typically decrease as you get older. Your age does not only determine how much sleep you get but also the type of sleep.

When you move from childhood to being an adult, there is usually a reduction in the deep sleep you get which are stages 3 and 4 in the sleep cycle.

This change occurs during the adolescence where this stage 3-4 sleep is then replaced by stage 2 sleep.

So, as you get older, the amount of deep sleep you get reduces as well as your REM sleep.


How Long Is A Sleep Cycle For Babies?

If you’re wondering about babies and toddlers, then you should know that the sleep cycle of most babies is actually 60 minutes long and newborns in particular spend all of their sleep time in the REM state.

However, by the time that baby turns 2 years old, he/she will have cut down their REM sleep to only a quarter of their sleep time.


Napping For Health And Happiness

Many people love napping during the day, however, you may have experienced some differences in how you feel after you nap.

You can either wake up feeling refreshed or more tired and groggy than before you took a nap. This is a result of where you are in the sleep cycle when you awaken.

It is best to give yourself a 90 minute nap, which is a full sleep cycle in order to wake up refreshed. It is a great way to retain a new skill you’ve learned or even after studying for an exam.

If you’re trying to recover from tiredness and are short on time, then a quick 15 to 20 minute nap is ideal, and some studies show that even a 5 minute nap can help.

If you feel a great deal of grogginess after you nap, then this is what is known as sleep inertia.


Sleep Schedules And Biphasic Sleep

The majority of people tend to get all of their sleep at night, in one long continuous chunk of time.

However, many scientists continue to question if that is the optimal way for us to sleep.

In some cultures, they practice biphasic sleepThat’s where there is 6 hours of sleep at night, and an hour and a half of sleep in the afternoon or during the day.

This is often known as an afternoon siesta in particular countries. Many scientists have found that this type of sleep may be better suited to our circadian rhythms since most people tend to feel very tired around 2 pm.

In countries such as Italy, many businesses and stores close for an hour or two in order to facilitate naps every afternoon.

According to various sleep experts, afternoon naps may be a great solution for people who don’t get enough sleep at night.

However, if you suffer with insomnia, then afternoon napping may make your insomnia worse and it’s not recommended.


How To Get Better Sleep

Since we have just looked at the sleep cycle, you may be wondering how you can improve the quality of your sleep.

Unfortunately, due to our modern and busy lives, most people don’t get the best quality of sleep which results in a continuous fatigue. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can improve sleep quality and we will now look at a few of them.


Get More Sun During The Day

The body has a natural clock which is known as the circadian rhythm. This internal clock is what tells your body when its time to sleep and it also governs your hormones, brain and body.

When you expose your body to natural sunlight, this helps to keep your circadian rhythm on track and healthy.

Many people who had insomnia and increased how much natural sunlight they were exposed to, reported a decrease in their insomnia and were able to fall asleep much faster than before.

Older adults were also able to get more hours of sleep, just by getting more sun exposure during the day.

Circadian Optics Light Therapy Lamp – UV-Free LED Happy Mood Lamps with 10,000 Lux for Seasonal Sunlight – Full Spectrum Sun Lights for Work from Home – Lattis (Matte Black)
  • Stylish And UV-Free: These mood light sun lamps are not only good for us but they make a fashionable addition to any space while providing the kind of light that our bodies need. The sun lamp is also free of unwanted UV rays.
  • Light Is Essential: Sunlight regulates the cycles of our bodies and our moods. With people spending more time indoors these days, it’s important to make sure our bodies get what they need, and this daylight lamp is here to shine some light for you.
  • Effective: This therapy light provides the recommended 10,000 LUX of brightness to help the winter blues, regulate sleep, improve focus, boost energy and make us feel less sad. The light therapy lamp is designed to mimic the colors of daylight.
  • Longer Lasting: The LED natural light lamp lasts approximately 50,000 hours — a longer life than fluorescent bulbs — and produces uniform, dot-free light that has the same quality of the noonday sun (5500K), full-spectrum.
  • Easy To Use: Our lamp’s revolutionary, quick one-touch operation makes it simple to use. No complicated settings to mess around with. 3 levels allows you to customize the brightness for the best efficacy and comfort.


Don’t Drink Caffeine In The Evening Or Night

Caffeine has numerous benefits and can significantly increase your focus and ability to concentrate. However, when you drink it in the evening or night, this causes your nervous system to become stimulated which doesn’t allow your body to relax.

Since caffeine stays in the body for 4 – 6 hours, it is not recommended that you drink it after 4 pm since this will negatively affect your ability to sleep.


Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements are a sleep aid since melatonin is a sleep hormone that tells your body that it’s time to sleep.

According to various studies, taking this supplement can greatly improve your ability to fall asleep as well as improve your sleep quality.

In most countries, melatonin is available over the counter but in some countries you may require a prescription.

It is best to start with a low dose so you can determine your tolerance and then increase your dosage as required.

Natrol Sleep Melatonin 5mg Fast Dissolve Tablets, Nighttime Sleep Aid for Adults, 200 Strawberry-Flavored Melatonin Tablets, 200 Day Supply
  • Sleep Supplements: One 200 count bottle of Natrol Melatonin 5mg Strawberry-Flavored, Fast-Dissolve Tablets for a 200-day supply
  • Ingredients: These sleep aid supplements are vegetarian and non-GM
  • Natrol Sleep Melatonin: Made with 99% pure Melatonin, this adult Melatonin nighttime sleep aid supplement provides 5mg of Melatonin to help establish normal sleep patterns; Melatonin helps you get better sleep so you wake up refreshed(1)
  • Melatonin Tablets for Adults: Adults, take one tablet 30 minutes before bedtime; dissolve in mouth or chew before swallowing; No water necessary
  • Disclaimer: (1)These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration; this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease


Cut Down On The Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, especially in the night, can negatively affect your sleep. It alters your body’s natural melatonin production and increases symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring.

It also negatively impacts your sleep patterns which results in poor quality sleep.


Optimize The Bedroom

Next, you need to optimize your bedroom so that it is conducive to sleep.

This means that you should control the temperature, furniture arrangement, external light, noise etc.

There are studies that indicate that noise negative impacts sleep quality as well as external lights.

As a result, you should try to arrange your bedroom in such a way that any impediments to good sleep are removed or at least reduced. By making your bedroom a clean, cool and relaxing space, you will be able to sleep better.

Magicteam Sound Machine White Noise Machine with 20 Non Looping Natural Soothing Sounds Memory Function 32 Levels of Volume Powered by AC or USB and Sleep Sound Timer Therapy for Baby Kids Adults
  • ❤20 Non-Looping Sleep Sounds: White noise ,Brown noise, pink noise, blue noise, fan,brook, rain, ocean,bird and Bonfire,suitable for for Baby and Kids and Adults.
  • ❤Precise Volume & Timer Settings:With 32 Levels of Volume ,it is perfect for baby sleeping .And you can set 1 hour,2 hours,3 hours,4 hours,5 hours and continuous play,control the comfort level for your own environment.
  • ❤Unique Design: Solid-state design with 6.3 inch*4 inch *2.4 inch,it is portable for home, office or travel,can give you a perfect sleep.
  • ❤Function & Safety:Memory function automatically restores your previous volume, sound and time,it is powered by AC or USB.The machine is approved by FCC, CE and RoHS,don’t need to worry about accidents.
  • ❤Any issue just don’t hesitate to contact us.We will try our best to help you!


Don’t Eat Too Late

If you eat your meals just before bed, then this can cause hormone disruption as well as sleep disruption.

However, eating particular foods can help with your sleep. In many instances, a high carb meal that is eaten at least 4 hours before bed can help you to fall asleep faster.

However, late night eating can reduce the quality of your sleep while also negatively affecting the release of HGH (human growth hormone).

HGH Supplements for Men & Women (120 Count) 1500mg Support Muscle Growth & Healthy Levels of Human Growth Hormone for Men, Promote Healthy Muscle & Recovery For Men Post Workout Supplement – USA Made
  • SUPPORT HEALTHY GH LEVELS – Harness the power of our premium formula (synergistic amino acid blend) featuring a potent combination of L-Arginine, L-Ornithine HCL, L-Glutamine, Colostrum Powder, L-Lysine HCL, Ornithine Alpha Ketoglutrate, and L-Glycine. This expertly crafted blend supports overall workout performance and contributes to your general well-being.
  • MUSCLE RECOVERY SUPPORT FOR MEN & WOMEN – Support post workout recovery to help you train harder day after day. It’s an absolute force multiplier paired with strength training & protein/caloric tracking.
  • Comprehensive Wellness Support: Our formula is designed to provide a holistic approach to your overall well-being. The combination of essential amino acids in our blend offers a range of potential benefits, supporting your body’s natural processes and promoting a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
  • MADE IN THE USA – Dorado Nutrition is proudly a 100% American owned company creating jobs & better futures for all our employees & stakeholders. All of our supplements are manufactured in the USA!
  • MANUFACTURED IN A GMP CERTIFIED FACILITY – No gluten, no wheat, no dairy, no sugar, no soy, and no yeast. Our capsules are GMP compliant to ensure premium quality. Our supplements are always free from unnecessary additives or preservatives and are third-party independently tested.


Take A Bath Or Shower Before Bed

Another strategy that can help you to sleep better is to take a bath or shower before bed. This has been shown to help most adults and especially older adults to fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep.

A warm shower 90 minutes before sleep time has been found to help most adults get more deep sleep. If you don’t want to have a full bath or shower, you can wash your feet with hot water to experience similar results.


Get A Good Bed, Pillow & Mattress

The quality of your bed can affect the quality of your sleep. New bedding can improve sleep whereas poor quality bedding can cause back pain and poor sleep.

The best type of mattress, pillow and bedding is quite subjective, so you will need to find the best ones that feel comfortable to you.

According to studies, new bedding can reduce shoulder pain, back stiffness, back pain and other bodily pains.

Pregnancy pains require special pillows and you can see my recommendations here.

New and old mattresses can cause many aches and pains.  See my articles on latex mattress toppers and memory foam mattress toppers.



In closing, we have just looked at the sleep cycle and how to get better quality sleep. So, if you don’t have the best sleep, it is advisable that you use the information above to make the necessary changes to your life so that you can enjoy the full benefits of good sleep once again.


2 thoughts on “How Long Is A Sleep Cycle? A Closer Look At The Sleep Cycle”

    • The time of night is not important. 10PM is no better than 1AM or 3AM.
      Typically you enter REM sleep 90 minutes after falling asleep. The first time you enter REM may only be 10 minutes long, but each successive cycle is normally longer.
      So, your first sleep cycle might be 90 minutes + 10 minutes REM = 100 minutes. Your second cycle might be 90 minutes + 25 minutes REM = 115 minutes.
      Everyone is a bit different, and as you get older they say you don’t normally sleep as much.
      Also, older men with prostate issues get up more often at night, which interrupts the sleep cycle.
      Normally I fall asleep nearly instantly, but wake up in 1.5 or 3 hours. So, without measuring myself I suspect my deepest sleep is right after I go to bed, and the remainder of the night is lighter sleep. That doesn’t fit the textbook standards. So, don’t be surprised if your sleep routine is different from other people.
      Although, if you are different, you may have a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, or just being uncomfortable because of an old mattress.


Leave a Comment