Good sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, yet sadly it is often the most overlooked. We spend hours obsessing about diet and nutrition, or number of calories burned at the gym, yet we do not place priority on getting the sleep we need.
Getting enough sleep, and especially the right kind of sleep is essential for your body and mind to properly heal and to keep you energized all day…so you won’t need to knock back your third coffee of the day before noon.
What Is REM Sleep?
There are five sleep stages. The first four of five stages are classified as non-REM, and the final stage is known as REM sleep. During sleep, the body cycles between REM and non-REM sleep:
Stage 1: Non-REM Stage 1 is a stage between sleep and wakefulness. The eyes open and close moderately, and muscles are still active.
Stage 2: In non-REM stage 2 it becomes gradually harder to wake the person.
Stages 3 & 4: Known as deep sleep, non-REM stages four and five are the stages of sleep that renew the body.
Stage 5: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is the sleep stage in which rapid and random eye movement occurs.
The first period of REM usually occurs after 90 minutes of sleep, and it recurs multiple times over the night, each instance lengthening in time. The final REM stage may last up to an hour. During REM sleep one’s breathing shallows and becomes more rapid, heart rate and blood pressure increase, and limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. This is also the stage in which dreaming occurs. If you wake a person up during REM sleep, they will vividly recall their dreams.
Why is REM Sleep Important?
The importance of REM sleep lies in the fact that it renews your mind and affects your daytime mood, meaning you will be able to think clearer and be less cranky.
During REM sleep, all the information you absorbed during the day gets processed. Your brain forms neural connections that strengthen your memory, and neurotransmitters (like feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine) are replenished. Simply put, you need your REM sleep otherwise people will want to avoid you!
Your body sees deep sleep as a priority over REM sleep, so if you are not catching enough Z’s at night your body will try to make up for the lost deep sleep first.
To get more REM sleep, one may try to sleep an extra 30 minutes to an hour in the morning because this is when REM sleep stages are longer. That explains why it’s so easy to snooze my alarm in the morning. Now if only I could get my employer to understand… -_-
What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough REM Sleep?
Most adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep every night. In case you haven’t caught on yet, getting the amount of sleep you need is important for your physical and mental well-being.
REM sleep is restorative, and when you do not get enough you sometimes feel like you have not slept at all. Lack of REM sleep can negatively affect concentration, motor skills, and memory. That is some serious stuff, and hence the importance of REM sleep to the sleep cycle.
Tips for Ensuring a Good Night’s Sleep
Set a sleep schedule: You should aim to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. Easier said than done, huh? If you have a regular “bed time” your body will have less difficulty waking up in the morning. Going to bed later and waking up later on weekends re-sets your sleep cycle, making it harder to wake up early on Monday morning.
Avoid caffeine: Coffee, chocolate, and non-herbal teas act as stimulants, so they may affect your ability to go to sleep at the right time.
Tweak your sleeping environment: Make sure your bed offers you the support and comfort needed to remain asleep throughout the night. If your partner moves a lot and this leads you to wake up, you may want to consider a memory foam mattress (or you can kick out your partner). Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
Relax Before Bed: Set up a bedtime routine that gets you in a relaxed state. Lower the lights, and do a calm activity that you enjoy such as leisurely reading or soaking in a warm bubble bath. Shortly after dinner an herbal tea (non-caffeine) can also help you get into a relaxed state.
Exercise: Daily exercise will often help people sleep. Even 30 minutes a day will help you sleep better. So grab those sneakers or take a dance class and shake that booty!