Importance of Deep Sleep
What is REM sleep?
Getting quality sleep is crucial to your regimen – so important that it’s one of our core pillars! There are five distinct stages in sleep, of which the brain cycles through several times in a night.
The stage of deepest sleep is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The brain and body transitions through earlier, lighter periods of Non-REM sleep to the later REM stage, where brain activity is heightened and most vivid dreams occur. This deep sleep stage is typically the longest during the final hours of sleep, which can be cut off if you don’t get enough sleep!
In REM sleep, your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind the eyelids. Breathing becomes fast and irregular, and your heart rate also increases. The brain adopts mixed brain wave activity that is similar to wakefulness, particularly in the visual, motor, emotional and autobiographical memory regions of the brain. Your arms and legs however, experience a temporary paralysis to stop yourself from acting out on your dreams. The biological mechanism that regulates your sleep is the circadian rhythm, a sort of "internal clock" for your body. The circadian rhythm regulates hormones and other internal processes daily; for example, the hormone melatonin increases at night, which explains why you feel sleepy at night. The feeling of being awake, then, comes from the spike of cortisol levels in the morning.
Dreaming – why do we dream?
While we spend a considerable amount of time in REM stage dreaming, we often forget our dreams when we wake up. The more puzzling thing is – science can’t explain for certain why we even dream. Possible theories suggest that dreams are simply the product of random neurons firing, or that dreams help process emotions and sort memories, or to help the brain work through or prepare for challenges in real life. There isn’t a simple explanation for why we dream, but it is likely that dreaming serves importance in biological, cognitive, psychological realms.
How it all connects:
Getting enough REM sleep is connected to other facets of health too – particularly mood, cognition, and overall energy. Usually, a lack of sleep can cause decreased cognitive functioning, which causes difficulty in focus or problem solving. Mood is also affected as one tends to get more irritable or anxious following a lack of sleep. Energy levels can also be low due to fatigue, which in turn can continue affecting other aspects of life.
The importance of sleep, especially REM sleep, is undeniable; our body regulates this event in order to optimize our time awake. So if you want to wake up feeling good, be sure to get those hours in!
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