What Are the Benefits of REM Sleep?
The Integral Role of Sleep in Health & Wellness
Sleep plays a monumental role in maintaining our health. A sound sleep revitalizes our minds and body. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates, adults aged 18 to 60 should aim for at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep daily to ensure optimal functionality. However, inadequate sleep isn't just harmful to health; it has a financial toll too. Poor sleep leads to a staggering economic loss of $411 billion annually in the USA.
Understanding Sleep: Its Various Phases
During an average 8-hour sleep, our brain toggles between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and Non-REM cycles. Each cycle, spanning 90 to 110 minutes, comprises four distinct stages. The first two stages are typically light sleep, while stages three and four delve into deeper sleep. Breaking it down further:
- Stages 1 through 3 are Non-REM Sleep.
- Stage 4 is solely REM sleep.
As we progress through the night, the duration of REM sleep in each cycle extends.
Delving into NREM Sleep
Non-REM Sleep encompasses the initial three stages of our sleep pattern. It acts as a bridge from wakefulness to rest.
Stage 1: Lasting 5 to 10 minutes, this phase sees a slowdown in body and brain activity. The brain emits slow theta waves. Some may feel a sensation of falling, known medically as the hypnic myoclonic jerk, which is quite common.
Stage 2: This stage, roughly 20 minutes long, constitutes about 50% of our total sleep. Eye movements cease, and body temperature drops. Sporadic sleep spindles (rapid brain waves) appear, aiding memory consolidation.
Stage 3: The deepest phase of Non-REM is characterized by delta waves. Waking someone up during this stage is challenging. This is when our body undergoes repair, and the brain consolidates memories from daily experiences.
Shifting to REM Sleep
After deep Non-REM sleep, our brain activity surges, marking the onset of REM sleep or Stage 4. Although our body stays still, the brain remains active, leading to rapid eye movements.
Dreams are most intense during REM sleep. This phase starts with roughly 10 minutes and elongates with each subsequent cycle. Intriguingly, REM sleep decreases as we age, from infancy to adulthood.
Why is REM Sleep Essential?
REM sleep is pivotal for our mental and physical health. It assists in processing emotional memories and the consolidation of new knowledge. Our dreams sometimes reflect this information processing.
Furthermore, the concluding part of Non-REM sleep and REM sleep contributes to cellular repair and regeneration.
It aids in tackling various health conditions. In addition to supporting cognitive functions, REM sleep promotes bone and muscle health across all age groups. It even fortifies our immune system, stimulating beneficial hormone production to regulate body temperature.
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According to sleep study research, our body requires only a specific amount of REM sleep every night. 90 minutes of REM sleep in a 7-8 hours sleep cycle is ideal for good health.
All four stages of sleep are essential to our well being. But, NREM Stage 3 and REM sleep, which together constitute deep sleep, are the two most important stages. REM sleep directly influences your cognitive abilities and memory retention. That’s why, lack of REM sleep can lead to long term memory loss and also happens to affect the functioning of neurons.
Not enough sleep or sleep deprivation can trigger many physical ailments. These include obesity, cardiovascular issues, blood sugar problems, poor immunity, sleeping disorders. Lack of sleep, sleep disorders or poor sleep can also cause drowsiness and mood swings.