Why REM Is So Important For Your Health.

Why REM Is So Important For Your Health.

REM impacts your daily life and your brain. Here we compare brains with healthy REM activity with those that do not.
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Ever wake up from a restful slumber? The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. All is well with the world. What makes up for this magical morning? Well friends, it’s all in the REM. 

REM, is short for Rapid Eye Movement. And it’s one of the ways to ensure you have a restful night’s sleep. In fact, it’s the most active stage during the whole sleep cycle. During REM, “the eyes move rapidly behind closed eyelids, and brain activity consists of smaller, faster waves, called theta waves, that are similar to wakefulness.”[1] REM can occur in intervals throughout the night, each lasting up to 90 minutes.  Although there is a need for ongoing research to support sleep medicine; the following is validated from the Sleep Foundation: 

“REM sleep in particular plays an important role in dreaming, memory, emotional processing, and healthy brain development.”[2]

Let’s look at a few of these key attributes of REM further… 

How detailed are your dreams? Can you see the stitches of a fine tapestry? Can you see the facial lines of a person you are interacting with in a dream? How about the colors? Are they vivid? REM contributes to how detailed and vibrant a dream can be. It’s your brain's chance to create something visually-appealing, like a Taylor Swift music video or a Wes Anderson film. 

Have you ever had a dream where you have re-lived a scenario from the day, or even the week prior? Perhaps it was something new you had to teach others, like you were in a group presentation or teaching a class. Or maybe you were the student. You were learning something new, like a new choreography to a dance or a new chess move. During REM, your brain pieces together these new learnings and skills in a sequence. This is your brain’s way of cutting and pasting and committing to memory the steps which are involved. 

Ever hear the saying, ‘Don’t go to bed angry?’ It’s usually something relationship counselors say to couples during conflict resolution or advice long-time married couples give. For example, say you decide to go to bed angry: I can attest – it’s never the best sleep of your life. Why? Because your brain takes the time to process emotions during REM. You end up playing back the scenario, who said what, what you said, what you should have said instead, etc. You toss and turn. The next morning, you end up even more aggravated and disheveled than the night before.  

On the contrary, if you worked out your differences before hitting the hay, it’s possible that during REM your brain might actually help you problem solve. You could wake up the next day feeling refreshed with a new set of answers.  

Depending upon your age, you might spend more time in REM than others. Generally speaking, younger folk need more REM than those who have fully-developed adult brains. No matter what age, REM, with the help of your central nervous system, jumpstarts your body and gets your body ready to be awake for the morning. So much so, that you might find yourself waking up before your alarm clock goes off! If it’s still nighttime, try to go back to bed if you can (easier said than done, but here are some hot tips from Loftie). 

During sleep, your brain, through REM, is actively working for you. The REM cycle helps you process events, emotions, and new learnings you may have had while you are awake. Unfortunately, sometimes you are not able to get a good night’s sleep. It happens. Over time, you may start to see the impacts of cutting your sleep time (and REM) in your daily life in the following ways: 

  •     Difficulty concentrating during the day
  •     Excessive daytime sleepiness
  •     Forgetfulness or poor memory

Over time, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to health conditions like diabetes, depression, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.[3]

Yikes! If you are reading the list and identify with these symptoms, fear not. You might just turn it around with a sleep REM-edy (see what I did there!) routine that will have you counting sheep in no time. 

[1] Noyed, D. (2022, March 11). 5 Ways to Get More REM Sleep. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/stages-of-sleep/how-to-get-more-rem-sleep

[2] Summer, J. (2022, March 11). What is REM Sleep and How Much Do You Need? Sleep Foundation. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/stages-of-sleep/rem-sleep

[3] Summer, J. (2022, March 11). What is REM Sleep and How Much Do You Need? Sleep Foundation. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/stages-of-sleep/rem-sleep