What Does REM Sleep Mean?

There are 5 stages which the brain moves through while sleeping. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is one of them. This is the stage whereby the eye is moving rapidly in different directions. Non REM sleep is what the remaining 4 stages are referred as.

Most people get into REM sleep after falling asleep for about 90 minutes. Just as they sleep all through the night, this stage will be happening repeatedly. It makes up about 20 – 25% of every adult’s sleeping cycle. In the case of infants, it is about 50%.

During the process of REM sleep is when dreams usually occur. It has also been discovered to play an integral part in learning, mood and memory.

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REM Sleep Facts

  • The brain is very active during the process of REM sleep. It functions like when you are awake.
  • There is likely to be fast and irregular breathing in this stage
  • REM sleep has been reported to be effective in consolidation of memories
  • Drinking alcohol prior to bed will reduce an individual’s amount of REM sleep
  • People experiencing disorder in REM sleep behaviour do usually act out while dreaming

What actually is REM Sleep?

Non – REM sleep is what the sleep cycle actually begins with. After that, it will then gradually move into REM sleeping stage. The first phase of this stage will usually last for a period of about 10 minutes while its final stage can last for about 60 minutes.

There are various changes that the brain and body experience during REM sleeping stage. These could be:

  • Rapid eye movement
  • Irregular and fast breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Body temperature will be changing
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Sexual arousal both in women and men
  • Increase in consumption of oxygen by the brain
  • Twitching of both limbs and face

In the case of most people, paralysis will be temporarily experienced as the brain is going to be giving signals to the spinal cord which will make it stop movement of both legs and arms. Atonia is what this muscle inactivity is referred to. It may likely function as a mechanism which protects us from trying to act out our dreams.

As a result of increased brain activities, REM has always been traced to vivid dreams. This is because even though their muscles seem immobilized, the brain isn’t active. Paradoxical sleep is what this sleeping stage is mostly called.

Non-REM Sleep

Prior to entering the stage of REM sleep, the body is going to pass through the various Non-REM sleeping stages. Each of these stages will last for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Stage 1

In this stage, the person is between being asleep and awake. He can be said to be in a state where the sleep isn’t deep.

Stage 2

The sleep in this stage is slightly deeper. The heart rate will come down and also body temperature is going to drop.

Stage 3

Delta sleep or wave sleep is what will be experienced in this stage. The sleep in this stage will be deep as well as restorative. Muscles will relax and there will be an increase in how blood is supplied to the muscles. Body tissues will not only be repaired but also grown. Hormones will be released and there will also be replenishing of energy stores.

The more people are ageing, the lesser Non-REM sleep they will get. People under the age of 30 will always have a restorative sleep of about 2 hours. Adults that are older may get about 30 minutes. 

Functions

As stated by NSF (Non Sleep Foundation), REM sleeping has been discovered to have some benefits. It can help in mood, memory and learning improvement. It has been considered to play a major role in development of infants’ brains. There could be physical and emotional implications in situations when there is lack of REM sleeping.

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