It’s almost been two years since the pandemic started and as we adjust to quarantine lifestyles, we might notice that our dreams are longer and more vibrant. This occurs because our body has gained an increase in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. With more time on our hands, we might ask ourselves, ‘What was I dreaming? What was that about?’ We want to interpret our dreams and document them, translating them into a form of art. Sharing your dreams with others can help you understand your dream more but you should not let others interpret your dreams for you. It is your story to tell so you should tell it as you see it.
- The first stage is called non-REM. It usually lasts a few minutes as your body is falling asleep, your heartbeat and breathing slow down, and your muscles begin to relax.
- The second stage is called light sleep. It usually lasts about 25 minutes as you transition from the first stage. Your heartbeat and breathing continue to slow down further, your eyes have no movements, your body temperature drops, and your brain produces “sleep spindles”.
- The third stage is called slow-wave sleep. Your body will be at the deepest sleep state, where your heartbeat and breathing are at their slowest rate, no eye movements, the body is fully relaxed, delta brain waves are present, tissues repair and grow, cells regenerate, and the immune system strengthens.
- Last but not least, you hit REM sleep, also known as Stage R. Stage R has two phases, phasic and tonic. Phasic REM sleep has bursts of rapid eye movement, while tonic REM sleep does not. Stage R usually occurs 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep, and is the primary “dreaming” stage of sleep. With each REM cycle, Stage R sleep increases. The first time you are in Stage R, it will last roughly 10 minutes. In your final cycle of Stage R, it can last between 30 to 60 minutes. While in Stage R, your eye movements become rapid during phasic REM, your breathing and heart rate increase and become more variable, your muscles become paralyzed and twitching may occur, and your brain activity is markedly increased.
After all that information, you may be wondering… so, what are the benefits of REM sleep? As we learned earlier, the three different stages of non-REM sleep and one stage of REM sleep affect our breathing, heart rate, muscles, and brain waves in different ways. Every night when we sleep, we go through all these stages, and it’s essential to get enough sleep to help promote our health. It helps with digestion, growth, and memory. Lack of sleep can affect your physical and emotional health. Some areas include having reduced coping skills, migraines, being overweight, and more. Getting enough sleep can also help prevent chronic diseases such as hypertension, anxiety disorder, and immunodeficiency, just to name a few. Sleep deprivation means you’re not getting the suggested 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
To improve your REM sleep, you should try:
- Establishing a bedtime routine
- Reduce night waking
- Get enough sleep which is about 7-9 hours of sleep per night
- Address medical conditions, such as sleep apnea
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime
Sleep lets your body rest and recharge for another full day. Lack of sleep can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Getting the recommended amount of sleep can maintain your weight, lower your risk for serious health problems, and improve your mood.
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