What The Heck Is REM Sleep?

It's super important you get your REM sleep each night.

It's part of a healthy sleep pattern to have a solid REM cycle.

If you're sleep deprived you're missing out on valuable REM sleep.

Ok...but what the heck is REM sleep?

Rapid Eye Movement (or REM) sleep is one of the sleep stages, and the only one where our eyes actually move around while we're asleep. It's the time when our brains are so active it's almost like being in an awake state. Plus, it's the most fun because our dreaming takes place during REM sleep!

What happens during this stage? The National Sleep Foundation indicates that REM sleep is linked to learning, memory and mood, and it also plays a role in brain development in infants.

When you're in REM sleep, there's a rise in your body temperature, breathing, heart rate, and oxygen consumption by the brain. That's a lot going on! Not to mention you're likely to have some muscle twitches in your limbs. I've been woken up a few times because my hand twitched and whacked me in the face. Not fun but also not surprising that it happens, since our bodies are actually in a state of muscle paralysis to help us avoid acting out our dreams. Can you imagine what would happen if our bodies didn't have this cool protective mechanism? We'd be running, jumping, and trying to fly around the room in our sleep! Or maybe those are just my dreams.

Why it's important: Getting a good amount (and good quality) of sleep each night isn't just something to strive for. It's crucial for your learning and memory. Without decent sleep, you may find it harder to remember things you've recently learned, since the brain does a lot of processing while you sleep. No sleep = reduced ability to remember and make sense of newly learned items. I'd also add that dreams are a really powerful way for our minds to express creativity and let us experience things we never could in waking life.

How to improve your REM: The beauty of technology these days is the ability to track just about anything, including your sleep. I use a FitBit to monitor my sleep, and can get detailed breakdowns of my time asleep (versus restless), time spent in different stages (including REM), and an overall score for all things combined. The price of these trackers has come way down, so there's no need to spend a lot of cash to improve your sleep. Once you know your starting points from the data, it's time to take action for improvement.

Some big impact changes include: having a consistent bed time, limiting alcohol, and resisting the habit of getting up in the middle of the night.

If you've noticed your sleep isn't giving you the energy and focus you're looking for, it would be a great time to join us for the Sleep Through Snoring program. In it, you'll learn how to sleep right next to your partner even if they snore like a chainsaw!


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