3 Things You Should Know About REM Sleep

Sleep is a vital part of good health and optimal function during your waking hours. As you get your much needed, revitalizing rest at night, your body actually goes through various sleep cycles. Each phase of sleep is important and beneficial to your body and mind, but REM sleep is especially fascinating because it increases brain activity, promotes learning, and creates dreams.

3 Things You Should Know About REM Sleep

Here are three interesting things that you should know about your REM sleep cycles that you experience each night as you rest, rejuvenate, and dream:

What is the Difference Between REM and Non-REM Sleep?

As you sleep at night, you cycle through periods of REM and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep occurs in three stages, and then you will enter REM sleep.

Non-REM Sleep

According to WebMD, the three phases of non-REM sleep are:

  • Phase 1: As you first drift off to sleep you are entering phase 1 of non-REM sleep. You are relaxed, but may stir or awake easily for about five to ten minutes.
  • Phase 2: Phase 2 prepares your body for deep sleep. Your heart rate and body temperature will lower as you begin to sleep lightly.
  • Phase 3: Deep sleep begins in phase 3, and you will not be easily woken up as your body works to repair tissue and bones and strengthen your immune system.

REM Sleep

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. During this cycle of your sleep, your eyes will move and dart quickly beneath your eyelids. During REM sleep, your brain activity increases, your pulse quickens, and you have dreams. REM sleep first takes place after you’ve been sleeping for around 90 minutes. The first cycle usually lasts about 10 minutes, and each cycle time will increase to as long as one hour in the last phase before you awake.


Why is REM Sleep Important?

REM sleep is important to your sleep cycle because it stimulates the areas of your brain that are essential in learning and making or retaining memories. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a study depriving rats of REM sleep significantly shortened their life span, from two or three years to five weeks. Rats deprived of all sleep cycles lived only three weeks. The importance of REM sleep, in particular, is attributed to the fact that during this phase of sleep, your brain exercises important neural connections which are key to mental and overall well-being and health.

What is REM Sleep Behavior Disorder?

According to the Mayo Clinic, REM Sleep Behavior Disorder is a sleep disorder that causes you to physically act out vivid dreams through erratic and violent arm and leg movements. This disorder can come about suddenly, and impact your sleep several times a night.

During REM sleep, your body usually remains motionless, but the symptoms of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder include:

  • Movements such as flailing, kicking, or punching in response to especially vivid or frightening dreams.
  • Noises such as yelling, talking, or crying while you are sleeping.
  • Ability to vividly remember the dream you were experiencing if you are woken up.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder can be caused by underlying medical conditions or disease but can have other triggers such as medications, sleep disorders, or neural problems. If you experience frequent, physical REM sleep disruptions, then a sleep study conducted by a professional sleep expert can help you determine if an underlying sleep issue is present, and help you once again benefit from your important REM sleep cycle.