If you know much about biology, odds are you’ve heard of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It’s one of our sleep cycles that’s most known for producing vivid and, oftentimes, outlandish dreams that leave us thoroughly entertained by the time we wake up.
Even though the dream-making is certainly an interesting component of this sleep cycle, there’s a lot more to REM sleep than what meets the eye.
During this sleep cycle, our brain works overtime to hardwire our cognitive and technical skills as well as our memories—making it a crucial part of our developmental growth. This part of our sleep has also been attributed to mood regulation and overall stability, which explains why sleep effects our emotions and vice versa.
With all of this going on, we shouldn’t be surprised that brain activity during REM sleep is almost equal to that of when we’re awake. But our body, on the other hand, is not quite at that level. It’s doing something else – something quite extraordinary. Here’s everything that happens to our body during REM sleep:
While most people assume your heart slows to a relaxed rate the entire time you’re asleep – and that it’s this state that keeps you asleep the entire night. But during the REM cycle, your cardiovascular system goes into an unpredictable rhythm.
There are times during this cycle where your heart rate will accelerate dramatically, then quickly slow down. Certain experts believe this to be caused by the emotions you experience during your dreams.
While your breathing rate remains at a relatively steady level throughout the night, during REM sleep, it’s normal to have an increased breathing rate. This corelates to the fluctuations in your heart rate during this time.
During REM sleep your brain activity rises to almost the same levels as when you’re awake. This is because your brain is working to enable critical cognitive abilities and technical skills, as well as solidify memories. So, if you have a test or a challenging task coming up, it’s imperative for you to get a good night’s sleep the day before.
While in REM sleep, your body’s thermoregulation is limited, so any changes in the room temperature could wake you up during this time. Some studies suggest this is an evolutionary response that allows us to wake up in the face of any external threats.
One of the most interesting things that your brain does during REM sleep is it paralyses your body through muscle atonia. This is a function that allows your mind to dream safely without your body moving around.
Sometimes, if you wake up in the middle of REM sleep, you may experience sleep paralysis, which is when you are awake, but your body is still paralyzed from sleep.
Even though your entire body become paralyzed during REM, your eyes maintain movement, hence the name of the sleep cycle.
Simple Ways to Improve your Sleep Quality
While scientists still have a lot to discover about the importance of sleep, what we do know is that it’s one of the most important bodily functions we have. It’s responsible for restoring and regenerating our minds, forming memories, and improving our cognitive abilities. That’s why getting 8 hours of sleep every night is important for your overall health.
If you struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep every night, here are a few quick things you can start doing right away to help:
- Follow a bedtime routine
- Reduce caffeine in the afternoon
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Dim the lights in your home at night
- Avoid electronics
Sleeping on the right mattress for your sleep style is another highly important factor that effects the quality of your rest. To find the best mattress for you, contact us at Majestic Mattress in Kelowna and West Kelowna. We’re always happy to help!