When you go to bed, you don’t simply doze off. Instead, you cycle through multiple stages of sleep. One of the most important of these is REM. This term stands for rapid eye movement. In addition to those notably twitch eye movements, this stage of sleep is also associated with dreaming and “paralyzed” muscles.
There is an increase in brain activity during this stage, and limbs may move and twitch. Also, heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are elevated. If you were to look at an EEG of someone in REM sleep, awake, and in deep stage sleep, the images of REM and awake would be similar to one another.
Why Is REM Sleep Important?
This stage of sleep is essential because of its impact on our ability to learn. Some people confuse REM sleep with deep sleep (slow-wave sleep). These are not the same thing. While slow-wave sleep is crucial because it’s restorative, REM is also important.
During REM sleep, short-term memories are converted to long-term memories. This is key to learning and recollection. Failure to enter and spend enough time in this stage of sleep can cause memory and cognition issues.
REM and Sleep Quality
Remember that sleep isn’t a passive activity. Your body spends these hours repairing cells and muscles and doing important cognitive work. It’s imperative that you spend an adequate amount of time in each stage, or else you will experience negative impacts.
In the case of REM sleep, you will struggle with memory and processing. Have you ever forgotten something you’d just learned the day before? If you didn’t spend enough time in REM, that short-term memory never became a long-term memory.
Additionally, people who aren’t getting enough REM sleep are often sleep-deprived overall. This is because you go in and out of REM sleep multiple times throughout the night. Sleep deprivation can lead to the following health issues:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Cardiovascular Disease
The same lack of sleep that impacts REM can also cause judgment and response time issues. That’s why sleep deprivation is associated with car accidents and workplace injuries.
How Much REM Sleep Do You Need?
This varies, but if you sleep the recommended seven to nine hours each night, you will get about 90 minutes of REM sleep. That’s about 20 to 25% of your total sleep.
What Causes Lack of REM Sleep and How to Get More
Overall, sleep deprivation is the leading cause of insufficient REM sleep. People who don’t spend enough time in bed won’t get enough REM sleep. Is your sleep constantly disrupted? That also means you’re not getting enough REM sleep.
Various factors may cause sleep deprivation, including:
- Uncomfortable mattress
- Loud environment
- Poor air quality
- A room that is too hot or too cold
- Stress and anxiety
The best approach is to view sleep as an investment in your health and well-being. Make it a priority. This means establishing a regular bedtime routine, guaranteeing you get enough hours of sleep, and selecting a mattress that facilitates comfortable sleep.