September 23, 2019

We all sleep. In fact, the average person spends one-third of their life catching some zzz’s. It may not seem like it but when we are sleeping, a lot is happening with our bodies. During sleep, the brain moves through four different stages, one being referred to as rapid eye movement (REM) and the other three being non-rapid eye movement (NREM) cycles. In today’s blog we are going to discuss the importance of REM sleep and the functions it plays in our overall health.

 

What’s REM sleep?

Each person starts off the night in NREM sleep, however within the first 90 minutes of hitting the sack, they’ll reach the REM stage. The first period of REM typically lasts 10 minutes and as you sleep, the following REM stages get longer, with the final one lasting up to an hour. As the night progresses, REM will occur several times, accounting for a quarter of our sleep cycle. This is also when most dreams occur because your brain is most active during the REM stage.

What’s happening with my body?

As one experiences REM sleep, the brain and body go through several changes:

  • Rapid and random movement of the eyes
  • Fast or irregular breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased brain activity
  • High level of oxygen consumption
  • Lower muscle tone throughout the body
  • Twitching of the face and limbs

 

Why is REM sleep important?

REM sleep is believed to benefit learning, memory, mental skills, and mood. Furthermore, it stimulates the areas in your brain that have the ability to retain memories, as well as makes important neural connections. In infants, it also contributes to their brain development. Adults will spend 20-25% of their nights in REM, while babies spend up to 50%. When we don’t get an adequate amount of REM sleep, it can greatly affect our physical and emotional health.

 

How do I improve my REM sleep?

If you feel you lack in your sleeping abilities, there are steps you can take in enhancing both your REM and NREM sleep.

  • Establish a bedtime routine: be consistent in the amount of sleep and time you’re going to bed each night to prepare the body and mind
  • Reduce distractors: eliminate loud sounds and bright lights as these can interrupt sleep
  • Get enough sleep: Make sure you’re taking care of yourself by getting the right amount of sleep each night. The average adult requires 7-9 hours. When we sleep less than that, we reduce our number of REM phases
  • Prepare your room: Temperatures between 60-67 degrees are the most ideal for sleep. Also having the right sheets, pillows, and blankets will maximize comfort

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