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Light Sleep - What Is It And Why Is It Important?

Updated: 19/08/2022
11 Min
Simon Igild
Simon Igild

Light Sleep - What Is It And Why Is It Important?

Updated: 19/08/2022
11 Min
Simon Igild
Simon Igild

Table of Contents


Light sleep is just as essential as the other sleep stages, although it receives less attention. Light sleep is the transition phase between waking and sleeping. Your body goes through 4 sleep phases during the night and cycles through these phases several times while you sleep. Find out what occurs in the light sleep stage and why it’s a necessary part of the sleep cycle.


What are the different sleep stages?

There are four sleep stages plus an awake stage: Awake, N1, N2, N3, and REM sleep. 

The first stage, Awake, is not considered a sleep stage because you are not truly asleep.

NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement) is classified as stages N1–N3, with progressively more deep sleep in each stage.

The NREM stages account for approximately 75% of total sleep time​1​, with the N2 stage accounting for the majority of total sleep time.

A typical night’s sleep consists of four to five sleep cycles, with the stages of sleep proceeding in the following order: N1, N2, N3, N2, REM.

A complete sleep cycle lasts approximately 90 to 120 minutes.

The first REM period is brief, but as the night goes on, longer REM periods and less time in deep sleep (NREM) occur. 


The first stage is the wake stage, also known as stage W, and it is determined by whether the eyes are open or closed. 

N1 - (Stage 1) Light sleep (5% of total sleep)

Stage 1 is a light sleep state in which surroundings can quickly awaken the sleeper. This stage lasts for about 1 to 10 minutes, and then the brainwaves become more synchronized with each other, and the sleeper enters N2.

N2 - (Stage 2) Deeper Sleep (45% of total sleep)

You will enter a deeper sleep state as your heart rate and body temperature decrease. Stage 2 is a deeper sleep state where the sleeper is unaware of their surroundings. Stage 2 sleep lasts approximately 25 minutes in the first cycle. It gradually increases in length with each subsequent cycle, eventually accounting for roughly 45 percent of total sleep.

N3 - (Stage 3) Deep Sleep (25% of total sleep)

Deep Sleep is also known as SWS. 

Slow-wave sleep​2​ (SWS) is the deepest phase of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Stage 3 sleep, the deep sleep stage is the most challenging stage to awaken from; for some people, even loud noises (greater than 100 decibels) will not wake them up.

People tend to spend less time in deep sleep and more time in stage 2 as they age. Deep sleep is the stage during which the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and fortifies the immune system.

Sleepwalking, night terrors, and bedwetting are also common at this stage. 

REM Sleep - Stage 4 (25% of total sleep)

The next stage is called REM, or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, where brain activity increases markedly. Dreams occur during this phase because it is when brain waves are most active and similar to wakefulness. This stage typically begins 90 minutes after falling asleep, with each REM cycle getting longer throughout the night.

The first period is usually 10 minutes long, and the last can last up to an hour.

Dreaming and nightmares occur during REM. 

What is light sleep?

Light sleep is the stage of sleep when we are not fully asleep. It is also classified as stage 1 or NREM stage 1. A low level of brain activity characterizes this stage of sleep. However, it still has some characteristics that are different from the rest of the stages in a night’s sleep cycle. The duration of light sleep can last anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes, which means that it represents about 5% of the total sleep time of the night.

Knowing about this stage is vital because it can affect your mood and cognitive abilities during the day.

What does light sleep mean?

Light sleep is a type of sleep that is not deep and is usually considered a transitional phase. It is called light sleep because it is lighter than deep sleep, but it still has some of the same benefits as deep and REM.

The breakdown between light, deep, and REM sleep

The first stage of sleep is light sleep: this is the stage where your body is still awake, but your mind begins to drift into a dream-like state. It is easy for you to be woken from this sleep phase. 

Light sleep accounts for 5% of the total sleep.

The second stage of sleep is the deeper sleep: this is when your body and mind are completely relaxed, making it difficult for you to be woken from this sleep phase. This sleep stage has been shown to have many benefits for your health and well-being, including muscle growth, stress relief, and improved memory retention.

Deeper sleep accounts for 45% of the total sleep.

The third stage of sleep is called slow-wave sleep, or deep sleep. It’s when our brainwaves are slow and in sync with each other.

Deep sleep accounts for 25% of the total sleep.

The fourth stage of sleep is called REM sleep (rapid eye movement) or paradoxical stage, which takes up about 25% of total sleep time. This stage occurs in cycles throughout the night, with one stage typically lasting from 60 minutes to 90 minutes.

REM sleep accounts for 25% of the total sleep.

How much light sleep should you get?

The amount of light sleep you should get varies from person to person. The key is to find out how much light sleep you need and then take steps to make sure you get it.

The amount of light sleep you need is determined by your age, genetics, lifestyle, and even the time of day. For example, if you are a kid or a teenager, your body may require more light sleep than someone who is mid-life.

Many factors affect the amount of light sleep you need. It’s a good idea to consult with your doctor to find out what’s best for you.

How much light sleep should adults have?

There is no ideal amount of light sleep required for adults, despite the belief of sleep scientists that light sleep is beneficial. If you are sleeping at all, light sleep is typically the default state and is nearly impossible to avoid.

On the other hand, excessive oversleep has been linked to a higher risk of death and obesity, depression, pain, and heart disease.

The amount of sleep required by adults varies from that required by children and teenagers.

Adults require at least seven hours of sleep, but eight or nine hours is recommended. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

How much light sleep do children need?

Despite the widespread belief among sleep scientists that getting some light sleep is beneficial, there is no optimal amount of light sleep required for kids. Light sleep will most likely be their default state, and it will be challenging to break out of it if they fall asleep.

A good night’s sleep is essential for children’s healthy development. It helps them grow, learn and stay healthy.

Sleep deprivation can lead to reduced cognitive function, decreased concentration ability, and increased irritability. Sleep also plays a vital role in developing a child’s immune system.

How much sleep children need is determined by their age and can range from 10 to 14 hours per night. A child’s brain needs more deep sleep than an adult’s brain to develop correctly, so they need more time in bed at night.

Why is light sleep important?

Although light sleep, also known as n1 sleep, may not always seem like sleep, it is a necessary transitional stage from awake to deeper sleep. The first and lightest stage of sleep, known as N1, is when a person “drifts off to sleep,” dreams may start on their own, and hypnic jerks (the twitch before falling asleep) may occur​3​.

N1 sleep accounts for 3–6% of the total sleep duration for healthy people.

Healthy individuals who can transition from light sleep (n1) to deeper sleep (n2) more quickly are more likely to wake up feeling rested and with a better memory than those who cannot. 

Light sleep is a type of sleep that is not as deep or long as deep sleep, yet vital for proper sleep. 

Light sleep has many benefits that are critical for our body. It helps with recovery, resets the circadian rhythm, and reduces inflammation. 

What happens when you don’t transition away from light sleep quickly?

Lack of transition from light sleep to deeper sleep can cause several side effects, such as:

- weight gain

- mood swings

- impaired cognition and memory, and even dementia.

- increased risk of depression and anxiety.

- hormonal imbalance.

- increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep deprivation 

According to doctors, deep sleep disorders are becoming more widespread. Because they don’t have obvious symptoms, they are also more difficult to diagnose.

Numerous factors, such as stress and anxiety, pain, and depression, can contribute to sleep deprivation. In addition, common sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, according to doctors, can contribute to sleep deprivation.

Additionally, medication can alter circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, which can result in sleep deprivation.


How to get into light sleep fast and transition quickly to deeper sleep

The first step to maintaining a consistent sleep cycle is getting enough sleep. This means going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time each day.

The second step is maintaining a regular sleep schedule that adheres to the circadian rhythm. This means going to bed when it’s dark and waking up when it’s light outside.

The third step is maintaining a regular activity schedule, including getting plenty of activity each day and limiting screen time before bed.

10 tips for a good night’s sleep and how to get more deep sleep?

Stick to a regular routine at night

In the evening, your body prepares to sleep. The aim is to make sure your body knows what to do and when to do it.

A good routine helps you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper.

A sleeping routine should include calming activities, such as reading a book or listening to relaxing music, followed by an activity that signals the end of the day, such as brushing your teeth or taking a bath.

Keep your room dark and quiet at night.

The room should be dark and quiet at night. This will help you get a good night’s sleep.

First and foremost, the room should be dark.

Light from outside or inside the house can disrupt your sleep pattern and make it difficult to fall asleep.

Secondly, the room should be quiet enough for you to sleep peacefully.

Avoid anything that might divert your attention away from sleeping, such as loud neighbors or television shows. 

Make sure you don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol before bed.

Knowing how much caffeine and alcohol you drink before bed is noteworthy. Drinking too much coffee or alcohol before bed can cause sleeplessness and other sleep problems.

Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine, making it hard for your body to relax. Alcohol also disrupts the natural sleep cycle by slowing brain activity and reducing REM sleep (rapid eye movement).

Try progressive muscle relaxation techniques before bedtime.

There are many ways to reduce stress and anxiety. One of the techniques is progressive muscle relaxation.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body. It can be done by yourself or with the help of a therapist. The idea behind this technique is that it will calm you down and help you release tension, which, in turn, will improve your sleep.

The basic principle of progressive muscle relaxation is to move through your body, part by part. You first tense up your muscles. After that, you maintain the tension for a short while. After that, you allow them to unwind.

Many of us have a vague and ambiguous idea of what relaxation is. The concept of relaxation is vague and ill-defined. What does it really mean to feel at ease and relaxed in your body? How does it feel to relax your hand?

Let’s try a quick experiment: try to pay attention to how your left hand is currently feeling. Can you tell whether your hand feels tense or relaxed just off the top of your head? If not, try clenching your hand to the maximum extent you can. For a moment, keep the tension in place and pay attention to how it feels. Release the tension after that, and pay attention to how the hand feels.

It is intended that by experiencing the contrasts, you will gain a deeper understanding of how tension and relaxation actually feel. Perhaps you didn’t notice a significant difference when we conducted our small experiment. That is entirely common. It takes time to adjust to the exercise and get to know your body better. You now understand the rationale behind progressive muscle relaxation.

This technique is often used to manage chronic pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress-related health conditions.

Have a relaxing ritual before bed.

A relaxing ritual like taking a bath or reading can work wonders in helping you get to bed feeling relaxed and ready for bedtime.

Many people find that their sleep is worse than it has ever been.

This is because of the stress in their lives and the technology we are constantly surrounded by. The first step to getting a better night’s sleep is to make a ritual before bed.

A relaxing ritual like taking a bath or reading can do wonders by helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Some people like to read a book, light incense, or do yoga. Others prefer a more practical approach and like to squeeze stress balls or use essential oils. But the key is to find what works best for you and practice it daily.

Limit screen time at night.

The blue light from screens interrupts your natural circadian rhythm, so try not to use screens right before bed (except to use them as part of your nighttime routine).

Many of us are guilty of scrolling through our phones or watching TV before bed. 

But what is the impact of this?

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that people who used their phones or tablets within an hour of bedtime experienced more disruptions in their sleep and were less satisfied with their sleep quality.

The blue light from these devices can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm and melatonin (a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland and helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles) production, leading to poor sleep. Put your phone and other devices away at least an hour before bedtime to avoid this.

Put an AI sleep assistant to work for you!

AI sleep assistants are a new way to get the right amount of sleep. They can help you fall asleep by providing an optimal mix of soothing sounds and prerecorded messages.

Planning your day in advance is advantageous if you can't easily fall asleep at night.

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try planning your day in advance. This will help you sleep better and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Planning your day in advance is not difficult and can help you get a lot done. You will feel less stressed and more accomplished if you plan your day before it starts.

Invest in a proper Mattress.

A good mattress is essential for a good night’s sleep. Great beds provide comfort, support, and breathability for the sleeper’s body type and weight distribution.

A mattress is an important factor in our ability to sleep well. Still, many overlook its significance and continue to use a mattress that does not provide adequate support and comfort.

A new mattress can be an expensive investment, but it can unlock your ability to sleep better.

Regular physical activity

Making time for physical activity is essential for overall health. Exercise helps reduce stress, boosts the immune system, reduces chronic pain, and improves sleep quality. However, avoiding heavy exercise too close to bedtime is rudimentary, or it can make it harder to fall asleep.


N1 (stage 1) - Light sleep - This is the lightest stage of sleep. This short, drowsy phase is the transition to sleep when your breathing and heart rate slow down. The light sleep phase lasts about 1-5 minutes and makes up 5% of total sleep time.

There are many things you can do to get a good night's sleep. From avoiding screens before bed to investing in a new mattress, there are plenty of tips that will help you get the most out of your slumber. We've listed some of the best ways to improve your sleep hygiene, but be sure to find what works best for you and stick with it!


  1. 1.
    Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation. National Academies Press; 2006. doi:10.17226/11617
  2. 2.
    Zolovska B, Shatkin JP. Key Differences in Pediatric versus Adult Sleep. Encyclopedia of Sleep. Published online 2013:573-578. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-378610-4.00496-4
  3. 3.
    Cuellar NG, Whisenant D, Stanton MP. Hypnic Jerks. Sleep Medicine Clinics. Published online September 2015:393-401. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2015.05.010
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