For many years, experts thought that sleep was just a time for rest and relaxation. Prior to the 1953 discovery of REM sleep, specialists had no idea that sleep might be an active and sophisticated activity. Since then, the study of sleep has advanced significantly, and scientists have discovered that mammals, birds, and reptiles all undergo REM sleep. It is believed that memory and learning, among other mental activities, depend on this period of sleep.
The sleep period known as REM, which is characterized by rapid eye movements, is frequently connected to dreaming. One of the four stages of sleep that humans go through each night is REM. Because the eyes are usually stationary throughout the other three stages, they are known as non rapid eye movement sleep (NREM).
A person repeatedly alternates between NREM and REM sleep during typical sleep. The average person experiences four to six REM periods throughout a typical night of sleep since they happen roughly every 90 minutes.
We’ll talk about the significance of REM sleep, how much of it you need, and how to increase it if you aren’t receiving enough.
REM Sleep: What Is It?
The most active stage of sleep, known as REM sleep, is the one most frequently connected with dreaming. The brain is active in this stage in smaller, quicker waves known as theta waves that resemble wakefulness. The eyes move quickly behind closed eyelids.
Although people may occasionally show muscle twitches, most muscles briefly paralyze during REM sleep to prevent inadvertent harm from acting out dreams. Breathing quickens and becomes erratic as heart rate rises. In contrast to people who are awakened during deep sleep, someone awakened during REM sleep frequently appears to be fairly aware.
Throughout the course of the night, REM sleep cycles take place around every 90 minutes and normally get longer as the night goes on, starting at 10 minutes and going up to an hour. We do, however, spend less time in REM sleep than in NREM sleep during the course of a typical sleep cycle. The entire length and timing of REM sleep phases are controlled by a number of brain regions.
What Makes REM Sleep Vital?
Researchers have discovered data indicating that REM sleep is an essential component of memory consolidation and aids in setting up and maintaining brain connections that will improve future learning. Studies have shown that napping and entering the REM stage of sleep increase working memory.
The muscle twitches that occur during this sleep stage may aid in motor learning. REM sleep probably plays a function in brain development. 50% of newborns’ sleep time is made up of REM sleep, which supports the idea that REM sleep is crucial for the brain’s development.
Additionally, emotional processing and creativity seem to be enhanced by REM7. Although people can dream during both REM and NREM sleep. REM dreams are frequently more vivid and bizarre while NREM dreams are more realistic. More REM sleep after a traumatic incident may lower the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, according to other studies that suggests REM sleep may aid in recovery from stressful events.
The majority of studies have concentrated on how REM sleep affects the mind. REM has physical effects as well and may help prevent obesity. Additionally, new research indicates that skipping the REM sleep stage near the end of the night may make you hungrier the next day.
Do You Need a Lot of REM Sleep?
Every night, adults require at least seven hours of sleep. Around 20% to 25% of a person’s entire sleep time should be in REM sleep. However, as the body tends to self-regulate to maintain a balance of sleep stages, experts typically prescribe overall sleep duration rather than REM sleep in particular.
Even a slight sleep deficit may not have a noticeable impact on REM sleep, but 12 to 24 hours of sleep loss causes people to experience a REM rebound effect the following time they go to bed. This phrase describes a rise in REM sleep to make up for REM sleep that has previously been lost.
What might influence REM sleep?
Different systems control the length and timing of REM sleep. The circadian rhythm, the internal clock that synchronizes functions like body temperature and the sleep-wake cycle, determines when REM sleep occurs most of the time. At specific intervals during the sleep cycle, the circadian rhythm is in charge of encouraging REM sleep. The overall quantity of REM sleep, on the other hand, is homeostatically regulated. This means that the body aims to achieve a certain amount of REM sleep. It also adjusts by going into or coming out of REM sleep depending on whether levels are within a certain range.
Specific underlying disorders impacts the quantity and quality of REM sleep . For instance, the initial REM cycle lasts longer and begins earlier in the sleep cycle in persons with depression. In contrast, insomniacs typically get less REM sleep. Antidepressant drugs have the ability to decrease REM sleep. But researchers are still trying to figure out why this reduction in REM has such few or no adverse consequences.
Sleep interruptions brought on by disorders like obstructive sleep apnea might shorten the duration spent in REM sleep. Other sleep issues have an immediate impact on REM sleep quality.
People who have REM sleep behavior disorder, for instance, do not typically have muscle paralysis during REM sleep, which allows them to act out their fantasies and maybe hurt themselves. Narcoleptics can fall asleep suddenly and enter REM sleep without getting much deep sleep.
Sleeping for too little time may not give the body enough time to complete all the REM sleep cycles. Because REM sleep generally happens during the second half of the sleep cycle. As a result, the majority of advice on how to get more REM sleep focuses on making sure you get enough good-quality sleep.
Create and follow a sleep schedule.
Even on the weekends, it’s crucial to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. If you want to get better sleep. The decrease in body temperature that happens in the early morning hours circadian rhythm controls it, tends to coincide with longer periods of REM sleep. Maintaining erratic sleep-wake schedules might throw the body off balance and make it more difficult to regulate REM sleep.
Remedy for Sleep Disorders
When you treat sleep disturbance, the proportions of REM sleep that were altered as a result of the disorder can return to normal. For instance, studies have shown that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for obstructive sleep apnea results in rebound REM sleep, improved mood, and higher-quality sleep overall. Depending on your unique circumstances, your doctor or a sleep specialist can assist you in creating an effective treatment plan.
Stop using sedatives
When people stop using certain antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. REM sleep may be reduced or virtually completely suppressed, leading to REM rebound. Long-term users of these drugs often conclude that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Ask your doctor whether there are any possibilities for changing to a different medicine or lowering your dose. If, nevertheless, the lack of REM sleep is impairing your quality of life.
Avoid using tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine.
When you first enter REM sleep, drinking moderate to a lot of alcohol can delay this process. It can also shorten the length of time you spend in REM sleep overall. When ingested in the evening or near to when you want to go to sleep, caffeine and smoke can also prevent you from moving through the stages of sleep normally. Try to limit your consumption of these substances or completely abstain from them in the late afternoon or evening.
Utilize sleep hygiene practices
Once someone starts sleeping well on a regular basis, the amount of REM sleep usually stabilizes. To enhance the quality of your sleep, several experts advise following good sleep hygiene practices. Examples of good sleeping habits are:
- doing regular exercise
- preserving a calm, silent, and dark bedroom environment
- setting up a nighttime routine that includes relaxing activities like reading or having a warm bath
- avoiding using electronics and screens in the bedroom
- After 20 minutes of trying to fall asleep, get out of bed and do something else in another room until you’re sleepy enough to get back in.
Although some people may benefit from practicing good sleep hygiene. For those who have a documented sleep issue (like insomnia) or another medical condition. It is not an appropriate course of treatment.