During REM sleep, or rapid eye movement stage sleep, your eyes move around in various directions, although your eyelids remain closed. Furthermore, your blood pressure rises and breathing rate increases. Throughout this stage of sleep, the arm and leg muscles are temporarily paralyzed in order to protect you from physically acting out your dreams.
The first episode of REM sleep begins about 70 to 90 minutes after you fall asleep. People typically have three to five REM episodes of sleep per night. During this stage of sleep, you are not conscious, but your brain remains very active. It is the period of sleep during which most dreams occur.
Your dreams during the REM stage of sleep often have bizarre plots and vivid imagery, while dreams that occur in other stages of sleep are repetitive and thought-like.
REM episodes of sleep occur in bursts of about 11 to 25 minutes and cumulatively last a total of about two hours each night. After the REM stage of sleep, the entire cycle of sleep, from stages 1 to 4 of non-rapid eye movement sleep, begins again.
As the night progresses, the REM stage of sleep becomes longer, while the time spent in stages 3 and 4 of non-rapid eye movement sleep become shorter. Overall, about one-fifth of the total time that adults spend asleep is spent in the REM stage.
Why Is the REM Stage of Sleep Important?
It’s still not clear exactly why the REM stage of sleep is so important, but studies show that it stimulates the regions of the brain that are used in learning and storing memories.
Scientists speculate that the REM stage of sleep plays an important role in learning new tasks. For example, according to several studies, when a person’s REM stage of sleep is interrupted, it becomes more difficult for him to accomplish certain types of learning.
To ensure that you get a sufficient amount of the REM stage of sleep each night, sleep for around seven to nine hours and eliminate factors that could be disrupting your sleep, such as:
If the REM stage of sleep is disrupted one night, you will not follow the usual sleep cycle the next time you go to sleep. Moreover, the REM stage of sleep will be longer on subsequent nights until you catch up.
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Published by Jules Sowder