What is REM Sleep?

Woman sleeping on bed

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and it is a vital stage of your sleep cycle. It’s something you may have heard of quite a bit but maybe you don’t really know what it is.

What happens during the REM stage?

The REM stage of your sleep cycle occurs approximately 90 minutes after you fall asleep and helps to improve your learning, memory and mood. In this stage, your body and brain go through a lot of activity including eye movement in various directions, fast breathing, increased brain activity and low muscle tone. This is also the stage of sleep where you would typically have dreams.

Believe it or not, despite all of this activity in your body during this stage, you will be in a very deep sleep when this occurs and likely have no idea that it is happening. This stage makes up approximately 20-25 percent of the body’s entire sleep cycle and it is very important for you to have a good and restful sleep at night and for your body and brain to fully recharge.

How does REM sleep affect me?

Although it may not be something you think about, there are many ways that the REM phase of your sleep can be disrupted. For instance, many studies completed over the years have shown that consuming too much alcohol, especially close to bedtime, can significantly shorten the REM sleep stage. Additionally, certain medical conditions or medications can contribute to a disrupted REM sleep, although it’s very rare.

If for any reason this stage of sleep get disrupted, there are ways to improve your REM sleep which include practicing proper sleep hygiene (including sticking to a consistent bedtime, keeping the bedroom as an inviting sleep environment and sticking to at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night). Avoiding alcohol close to bedtime is also essential.

If you are experiencing any sleep issues or a disrupted REM sleep then it is important to speak to your doctor to get proper help.

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