What Is REM Sleep?

Did you know that your body goes through multiple cycles of sleep every night as you rest? Many individuals have heard of sleep cycles, but to understand more about the importance of REM sleep, we should first gain more understanding.

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, after the way the eyes tend to shift back and forth during this 4th phase of sleep. During this REM cycle of sleep, our body temperature decreases and our brain waves and cognitive function become more active. Our brains become more engaged than they are when we are conscious, and we also experience a large portion of our dreams in this phase of sleep.

The Importance of REM Sleep

The importance of REM sleep not only lies in its facilitation of our cognitive function during sleeping hours but also in its ability to help us have efficient cognitive function and better social processing during our day. This means that after REM sleep, we not only wake feeling well rested for the day, but we have better social interactions, increased ability to understand new or complex tasks, and better concentration during our waking hours.

The Big Picture

When we experience sleep deprivation, the REM sleep cycle is the first sleep cycle to suffer. This means that your brain essentially becomes sleep deprived. As a result, your body responds by seeking other, more physically active sleep cycles (NREM) during the night.

This results in restless sleep with lots of physical movements as your body attempts to adapt. The importance of REM sleep is further highlighted by the physical symptoms that may result, including raised blood pressure, as well as increased risk of heart disease and poor heart health. 

What to Do

It’s crucial to examine your sleep habits to get the proper amount of REM sleep. Are you able to fall asleep early, or do you suffer from sleep apnea or other sleep disorders?

These are often the culprits for lack of sleep and the consequential loss of REM sleep. Addressing these issues by adopting a better sleep routine (falling asleep at an early enough time, setting a sleep environment that is quiet, cool, and dark, etc.) and addressing any sleep disorders with your physician can go a long way to ensuring that you get the REM sleep that you need.

At the Jacksonville Sleep Center, we specialize in helping patients across Northeast Florida get the great sleep they need! Our physicians and team of specialists offer the latest options for sleep assessment and treatment. Contact us today to learn more and set up an evaluation!