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What is REM sleep?

Sleep is a relaxing activity for the sleeper. Here the dream sleep, or REM sleep phase is the most important. This is the phase where you sleep the deepest and where your body and mind are restored. With this, sleep is an enormously busy activity for the brain. Researchers still do not understand why we need sleep, but suspect that it is required to recover ourselves physically and psychologically from a busy day. Below we will explain why sleep, and especially the REM sleep phase is so important.

What exactly is REM sleep?

In our sleep, we have a sleep cycle with different sleep phases. While sleeping, our brain switches between these different sleep stages. These are the slumber phase, light sleep, deeper sleep and REM sleep. 

The most important phase of the sleep cycle is REM sleep, where REM stands for “Rapid Eye Movement.” Here the eye muscles move just as they do when we are awake, giving the brain fast and short electrical wave patterns. Furthermore, the body is relaxed, but in your brain there is a very high brain activity going on. In this phase we often have very lucid dreams, which we could later remember. Because of this, this phase is also called dream sleep. 

The remaining stages of sleep are also known as NREM sleep, also known as Non Rapid Eye Movement.  

We have this sleep cycle about four to five cores a night of about 90 minutes in length. 

  • Sleep cycle and phases
  • Rapid Eye Movement
  • Dreams

Function of REM sleep

Little is yet known to scientists why we sleep, but it is now stated that REM sleep has an important function within the processing of events of the day and memories. During REM sleep, short-term memory is erased and we experience strong emotional feelings in our dreams. During this, our bodies are completely relaxed, while our eyes move violently. Researchers think that our bodies remain relaxed so that we don’t actually act out our dreams. It would be what if you were chased in your dream, running out of bed. 

What can be seen about our bodies in our REM sleep is quite a change from the other sleep phases. Brain activity goes up, but our body temperature that drops. The pupils shrink, our heart rate slows down and we breathe less air. In the process, we also produce less saliva and less urine. About 70% of growth hormones are produced during this phase. This is very important for the growth of our muscles and bones. In addition, stress hormones decrease, so you can dream in a relaxed way.

How much REM sleep do you need per night?

The magic number of 8 hours of sleep has been outdated for quite some time. There is no ideal length of sleep, and therefore no ideal amount of REM sleep. Every person is different and every age group is also different. It is even the case that when you are over 50, on average you need less sleep than when you were younger. On the other hand, some older people do take a nap in the afternoon, which means that the total sleep duration can also remain the same. 

It can be said that, like the magic 8 hours of sleep that are required, it can also be said that 2 hours of REM sleep are required. These are averages, of course, with some people sleeping longer than others. 

The duration of REM sleep also becomes longer the more often you have completed the sleep cycle during the night. REM sleep can thus range from 5 to 45 minutes. This is the reason why most of your dreams at the end of your sleep are still fresh in your mind when you wake up. 

Consequences too little REM sleep

When we do not get enough sleep and go through both stages of sleep, our brains cannot perform their restorative function. This results in slower responsiveness, less creativity, worse memory and less analytical ability.

It has even been shown in science that if we did not have REM sleep we would, or were awakened each time during REM sleep we would die within a short period of time. 

Consequences too much REM sleep

As stated earlier, the more often you have gone through the sleep cycle, the longer the REM sleep becomes each time. REM sleep takes a lot of energy out of us because of the high brain activity. So in short, this means the longer you stay asleep, the more tired you are once you get up. So sleeping out with lots of REM sleep seems like a luxury, but in fact it doesn’t do much good. A good balance must be found between REM sleep and the other sleep stages in order to be able to get up at an ideal time, rested. 

How can you improve REM sleep?

We cannot directly improve REM sleep itself, but this can be the result of promoting your overall sleep cycle. After all, if you can’t sleep deeply enough, or can’t sleep long enough, the quality of REM sleep will also get worse. It might help to read the following artical that includes 6 ways to improve sleep.

Improving the sleep cycle can be achieved through a consistent sleep rhythm, good ventilation in the bedroom and a dark bedroom. It can also help to be relaxed before bed, so that you can fall asleep peacefully. 

In contrast, there are also people with restless REM sleep. In these people, a part of the brain, the amygdala, remains switched on. It is responsible, in short, for processing all experienced situations. In restless REM sleep, emotions cannot be processed properly. A hyperactive amygdala and restless REM sleep are therefore the characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders and depression. In PTSD, the traumatic experience is also carried over to the next morning, in an anxiety disorder people take their fears with them and in people with depression the despair is carried over to the next morning. What is important now is to improve this REM sleep, to help these people process the emotional memories. 

Need personal advice on how a mattress can improve your REM sleep?

The importance of a good night of sleep should be clear by now! For this, of course, a good bed and mattress are very important. To support you in this, we have engaged the best engineers to design this for you. The Morningstar bed and the Morningstar mattress. For advice on a good mattress in combination with your personal sleep position, we can help you through our contact methods as listed on our contact page.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is REM sleep?

REM sleep is the most important part of our sleep cycle. It stands for Rapid Eye Movement, named for the violent movement of our eye muscles during this sleep phase. During this phase, we use a lot of our brain activity to process the events of the day. 

How much REM sleep do you need?

How much REM sleep we need is different for each person. On average, it is said that 2 hours of REM sleep is necessary, just as on average we need to sleep 8 hours a night. However, this is not the same for everyone, which is why they are averages. 

Is REM sleep important?

REM sleep is very important for both our body and our brain. It has an important function in processing the events of the day, but also in repairing our bodies. For example, short term memory is erased during REM sleep and events are given a place in our memories and many growth hormones are released for the repair of our muscles and bones.


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