Sleep is essential for the body to rest and relax, however for people that snore and their loved ones, it can be interrupted leaving them feeling tired during the day. There are different stages of sleep and we do not needly snore in all of these stages. Here we explore the cycle and the stages that are associated with snoring.

The Sleep Cycle

There is a natural cycle that your brain goes through when you are sleep. This cycle consists of 2 states known as rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). These sleep states are named due to the behavior of your eyes in each state. Normally, a person will begin sleeping with non-REM and then have short periods of REM followed by longer periods of NREM. Typically REM makes up 10-20% of the total time we are sleep.


Non-REM is made up of 4 stages. The length of each cycle will depend on the person but typically it is around 10-15 minutes.

· Stage 1: This stage is the period of semi-consciousness that we pass because we fall into a light sleep. It is associated with reduced brain activity

· Stage 2: This is light sleep and is associated with periods of muscular contraction and relaxation. The body is preparing to enter a deaf sleep

· Stage 3 and 4: Both of the last stages are deep sleep. Stage 4 is a much deeper sleep than 3. When you are suddenly woken from these stages you can feel confused and disorientated. It is during the latter stages of NREM that the immune system is strengthened, muscles and bones are built and the body repairs.


REM can occur suddenly at intervals during the night. Here the brain activity looks quite similar to when we are awake. If you wake directly from REM you often are aware of having dreamt, it is therefore also known as “dreaming sleep”. The purpose or REM is not fully known although it is thought it may be when the brain organizes memories.

The Sleep Cycle and Snoring

Before we can understand when snoring happens during the cycle it is important to note that not all snoring is the same. We will split snoring into common snoring and sleep apnea. Common snoring is the sound that almost everyone will emit on occasion, of course there are some people that snore much more than others. Sleep Apnea or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition that causes the complete blockage of the airways for up to 10 seconds when we are sleep. This causes someone to come out of deep sleep and into a much lighter sleep. OSA is a serious medical condition that can cause people to be extremely fatigued during the day causing them to suddenly fall asleep.

It has been found that common snoring is most likely to occur in stages 3 & 4 but can also happen during 1 & 2 of non-REM sleep. It is also illegally that common snoring will occur during REM. Snoring associated with sleep apnea is most common during REM and least likely during non-REM stages 3 & 4. Sufferers of OSA are often REM sleep deprived and it is this that causes them to fall sleep during the day often bypassing non-REM sleep falling straight into REM. Often people with sleep apnea struggle to reach deep sleep as they are awakened with apneas during light sleep and REM. This causes extreme tiredness during the day.

There are many treatments and techniques out there that can help both snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea.