Sleep is an active process. While your body is “at rest,” it’s actually doing things like strengthening your immune system and stimulating essential parts of your brain. During rapid eye movement or REM sleep, brain activity increases as well as your heart rate. As a result, your breathing may become faster. REM sleep is one of the four crucial stages that you go through during each sleep cycle.
What Are the Four Stages of Sleep?
The four stages of sleep are:
Stage 1: You’re just falling asleep. It’s easy to wake you up. This stage might last up to ten minutes.
Stage 2: You’re in a light sleep. It will be a little bit harder to wake up now. You might remain in this stage for 25 minutes or so.
Stage 3: You’re in a deep sleep.
Stage 4: You’re in REM sleep. This is when dreams occur. REM sleep can be over in ten minutes, or it might last for an hour. It usually starts about 90 minutes after you go to sleep.
Why Is REM Sleep Important?
REM sleep is vital for a number of different reasons. Dreams occur during REM sleep, and research shows that dreaming is necessary for brain development and health. On average, you spend about two hours dreaming each night.
If your REM sleep is poor quality, or if you’re not sleeping enough, it can adversely affect your health. A research team that published a paper in Neuroscience in 2015 found that “rapid eye movement sleep promotes molecular and network adaptations that consolidate waking experience in the developing brain. (1)” Your physical health may suffer from lack of sleep as well. Research shows that troubled sleep is associated with obesity, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
To protect your sleep, try sticking to a schedule. If you need to sleep during the day, invest in blackout curtains so you won’t be bothered by the sun. By tweaking your routine, you might be able to ensure that you get ample sleep.
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- Dumoulin Bridi, Michelle C., et al. “Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Promotes Cortical Plasticity in the Developing Brain.” Science Advances, vol. 1, no. 6, 2015.