REM Sleep: What happens inside your body when you sleep?

REM Sleep: What happens inside your body when you sleep?

REM Sleep

“Aaliyah is my soulmate, someone who God has blessed me with and the last person I would lay my hands on,” Adam said when charged with an alleged violent behaviour on his wife.

This is an excerpt of a story that was published by several media houses some years ago. 

Adam was a responsible husband and father of three. Also, he was loving and caring towards them. 

Adam and Aaliyah went to bed after a busy day. Before they slept, they shared memories of events, including when they started their love and how far they’d grown since then. You know the kind of love that comes with having a pleasant time with a loved one, especially when you share past memories.

They fell asleep around the same time, and a few hours later, Adam sat on the bed and started punching Aaliyah on the face repeatedly.

Their eight-year-old girl, Sofia, rushed to their room and was shocked to see her mum bleeding. She noticed severe wounds on her face. Meanwhile, Adam was already back to his sleep, snoring like ever before.

Aaliyah called the emergency number and was taken to the hospital while Adam was handed over to the police and charged to court with assault. Ironically, he had no idea of the drama he created.

What could be wrong with Adam? Her wife described the incident as the weirdest thing and claimed that Adam had never hurt her before that night.

Adam was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment and then released on the condition that he would never be with his wife again. He was later diagnosed with REM Sleep Disorder.

Here is another story:

There was a 20-year-old lady who had trouble sleeping properly. Her friends and family claim she would sit up or stand during sleep and start talking to herself. She would then go ahead doing this for minutes with closed eyes. Then she would return to her sleep. 

She had a nightmare of being chased in her sleep. She yelled, “Help me! Help me!” and fell from her bed. Like Adam, she was also diagnosed with REM Sleep Disorder.

REM sleep

What is REM Sleep Disorder?

As a general rule, we undergo five stages when we sleep. This can be further divided into REM sleep and non-REM sleep.  The first four stages come under Non – REM sleep. The fifth stage is REM Sleep. Your brain continuously recycles these stages.

Certain questions pop up in minds regarding REM Sleep:

  • What are its importance and disorders? 
  • How can you be sure you’re free from REM Sleep disorders? 
  • What are the facts you ought to know about REM sleep?

Getting answers to these questions is perhaps one of the requirements for improving your sleep patterns.

REM is the short form of Rapid Eye Movement (Paradoxical sleep or Desynchronised sleep) and a period of your sleep when your brain is super active when you breathe faster and irregularly. During this cycle, your body temperature increases, your body temperature changes, and your blood pressure goes higher.

The brain requires more oxygen, and your eyes move faster during REM sleep, hence, the name Rapid Eye Movement. REM sleep causes temporal paralysis, and your muscles become immovable. The significance of this is to prevent injuries that result from acting out your dreams. 

Researchers have identified REM Sleep across the animal kingdom; in Mammals, invertebrates, reptiles, and birds. The duration of REM Sleep in these organisms, however, varies. Giraffes, elephants, and horses usually spend less than an hour in REM Sleep. Mice fall into REM Sleep every ten to fifteen minutes, while humans exhibit REM Sleep every 90 minutes to 2 hours.

It’s evident that small animals exhibit REM Sleep more frequently than large animals — the reason for this remains unclear. In humans, non-REM sleep accounts for 75% of sleep, and REM sleep accounts for the remaining 25%.  

During REM sleep, you get a quiet body but your mind functions as active as ever. REM sleep is a time your brain and body recover. Cells that were damaged during the day are restored. It is also not unrelated to digestion and helps improve your memory.

Shelby Herris noted that the brain is very active during REM sleep. It’s quiet but processes a lot of things, a lot of emotions. You also dream mostly during REM sleep.

Try to recall the last time you suddenly woke from your sleep and got disappointed that you couldn’t complete your dream. Or, anxiety consumed you like water because you had a weird dream. The chances are that you woke during your REM sleep.

Most times, you don’t remember your dreams except when you wake up from your REM sleep. What happens when you intentionally deprive yourself of good sleep by staying focused on work or travelling for days?

If you aren’t getting the needed sleep, your body accumulates this sleep debt, and when you finally have time to sleep, your brain spends more time in REM sleep.

REM sleep

The outcome?

Since you spend more time in the REM phase, you spend more time dreaming. It’s called REM Rebound. On average, you spend about two hours dreaming every night. However, during REM rebound, the intensity and duration of REM sleep increase.

So allocating enough time for sleep is good for your health. This often means allocating seven to eight hours to sleep. It helps you to get enough REM sleep at night. REM sleep impacts your memory, learning, and mood. On the other hand, lack of REM sleep can impair your emotion, memory, and learning.

People who constantly have a problem entering REM sleep rarely remember what they learned before sleeping. Days of REM sleep deprivation may have a long-term adverse effect on memory. Studies at the University of Pittsburgh claim that a low duration of REM sleep could cause obesity. It also results in migraines and poor responses in the face of danger.

In the case of REM Sleep disorder, the paralysis associated with REM sleep is hindered, and the victim acts his dreams physically, such as in the case of Adam.

How to improve your REM sleep? (Even if you’ve tried medications and failed.)

If your sleep is not sound like before and it just seems like it’s getting worse. Here’s the real problem. If you don’t solve the problem now, research shows that you’ll start acting out your dreams or make unpleasant sounds when you have unpleasant dreams. You may start jumping from bed or attempt to defend yourself physically from an attack you had in your dream. Even if you don’t, you may start talking or laughing out your dreams.

REM sleep
Here are the possible solutions:
  • Stay away from alcohol before going to bed.
  • Practice regular exercise.
  • Avoid caffeine and other depressants during the day.
  • Develop a sleeping schedule of when to sleep and wake.
  • Create a moderate environment for sleep with no bright lights at an ideal temperature.

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