The Importance of REM Sleep to Your Body

Health experts have long championed the importance of getting adequate sleep. It plays an important role in our mental, emotional, and physical health. Sleep deprivation can have devastating repercussions on our overall health and well being.

There are four distinct stages of sleep, and while all four stages are important, there’s one stage that seems to be more crucial than the rest: REM sleep.

What is REM Sleep?

REM is an acronym for Rapid Eye Movement. During this stage of sleep, the eyes rapidly move back and forth, hence the name. This stage of sleep occurs once every 90 minutes during sleep (ideally), and every cycle lasts longer than the one that occurred before (again, ideally).

REM sleep is also referred to as paradoxical sleep. That’s because it is during this sleep cycle when dreams occur. Of all the stages of sleep, the brain is the most active during REM. In fact, some evidence suggests that the brain is even more active while dreaming than it is while awake.

What’s Happening During REM Sleep?

The rapid eye movements that are associated with this stage of sleep have long puzzled researchers, but a recent study may have determined the cause. It’s believed that the brain switches to different types of mental imagery during REM and the eyes move to assess and track that imagery. In other words, the eyes are moving to look at the different images that appear inside the brain during this phase of sleep; they’re capturing snapshots of what you’re dreaming about.

While the eyes are rapidly moving during REM sleep, all of the muscles from the chin down are momentarily paralyzed (excluding the heart, the lungs, and the diaphragm). Scientists believe that this paralysis prevents the body from physically reacting to vivid content that occurs during dreams. In other words, your body may become immobile to stop you from jerking yourself awake during this crucial stage of sleep.

Why REM Sleep is Important

While science has discovered what happens to the body during REM sleep, they still aren’t completely sure of the importance of dream activity; however, they do agree that adequate amounts of REM sleep and dreaming are crucial.

It has been determined that REM sleep allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and recharged. Because of this, a lack of REM sleep leads to fatigue, grogginess, and irritability. Furthermore, scientists believe that dreaming plays an important role in protecting and repairing the brain; it helps the brain consolidate and store memories and without it, memories can be damaged. It also appears that dreaming plays a big part in creativity and can aid in problem solving.

The Impact of a Lack of REM Sleep

Being deprived of REM sleep can have several consequences. It can increase feelings of anxiety, lead to mood swings, and lower concentration. A lack of REM sleep might also increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, as the brain is unable to efficiently cleanse itself of toxins that accumulate during the day.

How to Improve REM Sleep

If you find that you aren’t feeling refreshed and rejuvenated when you wake up, it’s very likely that you aren’t getting an adequate amount of REM sleep. There are several recommended products for sleeping that you can use get a better night of sleep and improve the amount of REM sleep that you get. Examples of products that you can use to improve your sleep include sleep masks and white noise machines.

Try using these products and you’ll experience a much more restful night of sleep, experience more REM sleep, and improve your mental function.

 

Image courtesy of [africa] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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