REM sleep [Rapid Eye Movement] is a type of sleep that occurs at intervals when you’re in Zzz mode at night. It’s characterized by rapid eye movements, dreaming, increased breathing, plus the movement of the arms and legs. REM sleep is one of the 5 [more popular] stages the brain moves through during sleep.
Truth is, sleep is super important to your overall health and optimal function during your waking moments. As you go to bed after a long day, sleep helps you get the much-needed rest you need to refresh/recharge for the next day’s activities.
But, all sleep are not equal...
For instance, your body undergoes 5 sleep cycles, and each phase has unique functions and benefits -- both to your body and mind. Particularly, REM sleep has been shown to contribute to increased brain activity, improved learning, and it’s responsible for dreaming sleep.
REM sleep vs Deep Sleep
OK so, many people assume that deep sleep and REM sleep are one and the same, and even use both interchangeably. But, there’s a whole world of difference.
It’s during deep sleep for instance that your body recovers from the day’s energy-sapping activities. In this stage, the body produces growth hormones responsible for rebuilding and cellular repair.
So, if you get enough ‘deep sleep’ at night, there’s no doubt that you’d wake up feeling fully refreshed in the morning. But, even if you had a good rest all night long without enough deep sleep...you’d still wake up feeling tired.
Deep sleep gets your heartbeat and breathing to slow down to their lowest levels, and it’s difficult to wake up at this stage. This sleep phase is vital, particularly for physical rest.
REM sleep [the more popular, sci-fi loaded cycle] starts around 90 minutes after falling asleep, and the activities that take place during this stage are more mental than physical.
During REM sleep -- your eyes move rapidly, the brain processes memory/emotions and eventually create dreams. It is also during this stage that the brain gets its chance to rejuvenate.
REM sleep is characterized by irregular breathing, increased blood pressure and heart rate...and of course, more dreaming. Your body is also temporarily paralyzed by brain chemicals that stop you from acting out your dreams [which could escalate into punching your spouse in the face -- for instance!]
So, in a nutshell, while Deep sleep has physical, restorative benefits...REM sleep is mostly about mental wellness.
Some fun facts about REM sleep
#1: The brain is almost as active during REM sleep as when you’re awake
#2: People dealing with a condition known as REM sleep behavior disorder actually act out their dreams
#3: Downing alcohol can reduce the amount of REM sleep you have
So, #3 brings us to one important question to ask…
How Much REM Sleep Do You Need?
Well, the recommended sleeping time for healthy adults is between 7 - 9 hours. So, spending around a quarter of that time in the REM stage is considered a good goal by sleep experts. Meaning, around 90 minutes of REM sleep is way-to-go.
So, that’s it folks -- but before you go…