an image of man sleeping in a bed
Last Updated on June 20, 2022 by Peter

What Is REM Sleep And Why Is It Important?

A lot happens in your body while you sleep. While you dip in your slumber, you cycle between REM and non-REM sleep. REM sleep is important because it is the restorative part of our sleep cycle. Typically, you begin the sleep cycle with a period of non-REM sleep followed by a very short period of REM sleep. The period of non-REM sleep is made up of stages 1 to 4. Each stage can last from 5 to 15 minutes. A completed cycle of sleep consists of a progression from stages 1 to 4 before REM sleep is attained, then the cycle starts over again.

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What happens during non-rem sleep?

    There are three phases of non-REM sleep. Each stage can last from 5 to 15 minutes. You go through all three phases before reaching REM.

    Stage 1: Your eyes are closed, but it’s easy to wake you up. This phase may last for 5 to 10 minutes.

    Stage 2: You are in light sleep. Your heart rate slows and your body temperature drops. Your body is getting ready for deep sleep.

    Stage 3: This is the deep sleep stage. It’s harder to rouse you during this stage, and if someone woke you up, you would feel disoriented for a few minutes.

    During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system.

    As you get older, you sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep. Aging is also linked to shorter time spans of sleep, although studies show you still need as much sleep as when you were younger.

    a woman sleeps in a rem phase

    What is REM sleep?

    Usually, REM sleep happens 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The first period of REM typically lasts 10 minutes. Each of your later REM stages gets longer, and the final one may last up to an hour. Your heart rate and breathing quickens. You can have intense dreams during REM phase, since your brain is more active. Babies can spend up to 50% of their sleep in the REM stage, compared to only about 20% for adults.

    Why is REM sleep so important?

    REM sleep is important because it is the restorative part of our sleep cycle. Typically, you begin the sleep cycle with a period of non-REM sleep followed by a very short period of REM sleep. The period of non-REM sleep is made up of stages 1 to 4. Each stage can last from 5 to 15 minutes. A completed cycle of sleep consists of a progression from stages 1 to 4 before REM phase is attained, then the cycle starts over again.

    However, if your REM phase is disrupted even one night, your body won’t follow its normal circadian sleep cycle (“inner clock”) progression. Instead, you will slip directly into REM sleep as a result of not getting the right amount of sleep the night before. You will also go through extended periods of REM sleep until you “catch up” on this stage of sleep. Poor sleep cycles can cause grogginess, a lack of concentration and more.

    an image of a woman that gets sleep next to a laptop

    People often associate REM sleep with dreams. While dreams can occur in other deep sleep stages, most dreams occur during REM sleep. Researchers are still trying to learn exactly why people need REM sleep, why we dream, and what purpose our dreams serve. However, some researchers theorize that dreams are the ways in which the brain processes emotions, information, memories, and stress.

    Changing your way of life so that every night you can get the proper sleep you need is key. Here are a few tips you can do to increase your chances of a good night’s sleep:

    • Keep a regular sleep schedule
    • Create a relaxing bedtime routine
    • Manage your thoughts
    • Stay away from big meals at night
    • Avoid alcohol before bed
    • Eliminate caffeine after lunch
    an image of a man that sleeps and dreams

    What is REM behavior disorder (RBD)?

    This is a neurologically based sleep disorder in which people enter into REM sleep, but the signals in the brain which usually generate muscular paralysis are not blocked by a “gateway” in the brainstem provided for this purpose during REM.

    The result? Dreamers can, and do, act out their dream contents. It’s a dangerous form of sleep disorder because it can not only harm the person engaged in the acting out of their dreams, but to anyone else who may be in the same space with them.

    RBD is unlike sleepwalking, which only takes place in transitions between stages of sleep in non-REM cycles. One of the main reasons why all sleep studies include a visual monitor is to capture and record elements of RBD when they occur during overnight tests.

    What is REM rebound?

    This is a kind of sleeping behavior that occurs in someone who is sleep deprived who then gets an opportunity to catch up on sleep. The brain cycles quickly into REM and stays in this stage of sleep for longer periods during REM rebound.

    The value for determining whether someone is experiencing REM rebound is at about 20 percent the quantity of normal REM sleep. In other words, if a person, who normally has 2 hours of REM sleep nightly, is then deprived of sleep, then allowed to sleep uninterrupted again, their increase in REM by 24 or more minutes (20 percent of 2 hours of REM) would indicate the presence of REM rebound, as if to “make up for lost REM.”

    a man adjusting its watch

    Conclusion

    REM stage of sleep is very important because that’s the stage when the most of dreaming occurs – and it is very often for a sleeper to start lucid dreaming during this phase of sleep. REM sleep is important because it is the restorative part of our sleep cycle. It is fourth stage of sleep, but unlike the first three stages, your muscles are paralyzed and your eyes move rapidly. That’s probably as a reaction to dream images. There are REM disorders too, like REM behavior disorder. This is the disorder in which body doesn’t shut down muscle movement. People can act out their dream, which can lead to dangerous situations. And people who tend to be sleep deprived can have REM rebound, in which body switches to REM dreaming immediately.

    Scroll to Top