Sleeping isn’t as simple as dozing off and waking up well rested. Your body and mind go through four stages during sleep, with the final—and perhaps strangest—being rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It’s the only stage that is considered REM, with the first three stages of sleep all being non-REM, or NREM.
As you sleep, your eyes move erratically beneath your eyelids when you enter the REM phase. This is where REM sleep gets its name. You may also be familiar with REM sleep because of its strong link to the dreaming part of sleep.
Though the purpose of dreaming isn’t easily explained, it’s clear that REM sleep is important and that it contributes to our overall health. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what REM sleep is, why it’s important, and how you can get enough of it.
Your sleep cycle goes through four stages, with REM sleep being the final stage. The stages typically happen in the following sequence.
Typically, you’ll enter the REM stage of sleep around 90 minutes after you fall asleep. As you go through sleep cycles, each stage of REM will get longer. The first period is usually around 10 minutes long, with each respective stage increasing in length as the night goes on. The amount of REM sleep you get can also be affected by your age, with babies getting the most REM sleep and older adults getting the least.
Usually, you want to experience the full sleep cycle four or five times throughout the night, meaning you’ll likely enter REM around that many times if you get an ideal night of sleep.
All of the reasons for REM sleep aren’t completely clear, but it appears to help with mood and memory retention. When you’re sleep deprived and missing out on REM sleep, you can also experience physical and mental symptoms as a result.
Here are some of the issues you may have if you don’t get enough REM sleep:
As you can see, REM sleep is a crucial part of your sleep cycle. Now that we know some of the risk factors of lack of REM sleep, let’s talk about some of the benefits REM sleep provides.
There are a variety of benefits to gain if you’re getting consistent, quality REM sleep every night. The following are some of the main benefits of REM sleep that have been observed.
As with any sleep stage, REM is crucial for the mind and body. It’s a stage of sleep that shouldn’t be neglected.
When you enter REM sleep, your body and mind activity changes dramatically compared to the other sleep stages.
Here are some of the things that happen during REM sleep:
Compared to other sleep stages, REM is a more active part of sleep. Light sleep and deep sleep involve your body cooling and slowing down, while REM boosts your body back to almost a full waking state while still repairing your mind and body.
Dreams are still somewhat of a scientific mystery. There are theories as to why we dream, and there are some explanations that help us understand why dreams happen.
While none of these theories are proven without a doubt, here are some of the reasons we may dream:
Dreams can vary wildly, or they can have common themes. There is a wide range of common dream themes that many people have, showing that dreams may be some form of subconscious emotional processing. Since dreams aren’t very easy to observe and study, it may be a while before we can determine their exact purpose.
While some dreams can be pleasant or simply confusing, others can be scary and anxiety inducing. These types of dreams are commonly referred to as nightmares and cause stress, fear, and anxiety in the dreamer.
These are some reasons you may be experiencing nightmares:
Nightmares can cause anxiety around the sleep process, so it’s a good idea to try to identify the source or cause of your nightmares so you can reduce the likelihood that they occur.
Although the REM stage is the final stage of sleep, it isn’t the deepest stage of sleep. Deep sleep is the third stage in the cycle and is an NREM stage—meaning there is no rapid eye movement—and the two stages have very different purposes and benefits.
During the deep sleep stage, your body is working on repairing and regrowing tissue, building your bones and muscles, and strengthening your immune system. Your body and brain activity processes are also at their slowest and most relaxed state.
Compare this to REM sleep, when your body and mind are particularly active. You can also wake from REM sleep fairly easily, whereas deep sleep is when waking is most difficult.
REM sleep and deep sleep do share a commonality. As you age, you get less of both. Children get more deep sleep and REM sleep, and the percentage of both decreases when you become an adult.
Typically, your limbs are immobilized when you’re in the midst of REM sleep. However, some individuals may suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder, which is when your muscle paralysis isn’t activated during the REM stage. This can cause you to yell, kick, or move your limbs while dreaming. The cause of rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is malfunctioning nerve pathways.
The following factors may increase your risk for RBD:
RBD can be treated with medication and with lifestyle changes to make the sleeping environment safer.
If you’re deprived of REM sleep, it’s a good idea to change your sleep habits and prioritize your sleep hygiene to get better quality sleep.
These are some tips to help improve REM sleep:
If you’re having trouble with your sleep, Sleep Reset can help.
All of your sleep stages are important, so you want to make sure you’re getting all of the quality sleep you need for a healthy mind and body. But you don’t have to do it on your own. Sleep Reset can help! Sleep Reset gives you a science-backed program using sleep coaching and proven sleep methods to get your sleep on track, so you can fall asleep and stay asleep. You get a personal sleep coach who is dedicated to helping you get better sleep every night. Sleep Reset is all natural and doesn’t use pills or supplements, so there are no side effects to worry about.
Sleep Reset will provide you with a personalized plan that works for your lifestyle, along with sleep tracking and your personal coach.
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