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Why Is REM Sleep so Important, Anyway?


You need a full night of quality sleep. When sleeping, your brain forms new connections and makes changes to existing connections. These brain actions are essential for making new memories and learning new things. The most essential time for brain changes to occur is during sleep is REM sleep.

The Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep stage is one of the four stages of sleep humans go through as part of the sleep cycle. Your comfort while sleeping makes a big difference in how much sleep you can get at night and how often you experience REM. The more quality sleep you get determines many factors of your health.  Learn more about this sleeping disorder below.

Stages of Sleep

A normal sleep cycle includes four stages. Three stages are considered non-REM (NERM) sleep, and the fourth is REM sleep.

Stage One

This is the time most people mean to when they describe “going to sleep.” In stage 1 your breathing, eye movement, and heartbeat all slow down. Muscles relax and may even twitch a few times. Brain waves begin to slow down in stage 1 non-REM sleep.

Stage Two

Also known as “light sleep,” comes next. During this stage, your breathing and heartbeat slow down more. Brain waves are slower than in stage 1 non-REM sleep, but bursts of activity may happen.

This is the stage in which you will spend the most time because you will move in and out of this stage through the night.

Stage Three

Here you’re in “deep sleep.” This stage is important for you to feel rested in the morning.

During this stage, your breathing and heartbeat slow down to their lowest levels. Your muscles relax even more, and it may be hard to wake you up. Brain waves are even slower at this stage than they were in stages 1 and 2.

Stage Four

Now you’re in Rapid Eye Movement (REM). This starts about 90 minutes after you fall asleep.

Your eyes will move rapidly in a side-to-side pattern while closed and your heartbeat will return to a rate similar to when you are awake.

Breathing becomes faster and can be irregular. The muscles in your arms and legs become still as if paralyzed. By keeping your limbs still, your brain is able to protect you from harming yourself as you dream.

You cycle through all four stages of non-REM and REM sleep several times each night; about every 90 minutes. As the night progresses, the REM periods of sleep will become longer and deeper, with the longest and deepest in the morning.

It’s important that you stay asleep throughout the night. This allows the brain and body to transition between the various sleep stages.

REM Sleep

The REM sleep phase is also known as paradoxical sleep (PS) or desynchronized sleep.

This stage is called paradoxical because sleep is restful and calm. During REM sleep the body functions are closer to patterns seen when you are awake. Functions like heart rate, breathing, and brain function are higher in this stage of sleep than during the non-REM stages.

At the same time, your body receives signals that force your limbs to stay still. This way you don’t hurt yourself while dreaming. Because of this, waking up during REM sleep can cause a problem called sleep inertia.

You’ll feel heavy, groggy, and disoriented if you’re woken in REM as your body tries to return to normal.

It is best to wake up during non-REM sleep, with stage 1 being the best stage to wake up.

If a person does not get enough REM sleep, it is called REM deprivation. REM deprivation can cause sleepiness during the day, which can affect how well you work and complete tasks.

REM Sleep and Dreams

Dreaming occurs during REM sleep.

Experts believe that dreams are a result of the brain making new connections. REM sleep is a chance for your mind to take in, remember, or forget what it learned during the day.

If you miss REM sleep you can experience REM deprivation. This will cause a rebound where you will later experience more dreams and REM sleep.

Unfortunately, this does not make up for missed REM sleep and its benefits.

You’ll have the best health and best rest if you achieve REM regularly.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep each individual needs are based on age.

Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. However, after age 60 many adults experience more awakenings during the night and nighttime sleep is shorter and lighter.

As you get older, you also spend less time in REM sleep during the night than you did in your younger years. This could be related to age-related changes in the brain. It is important to get the rest you need as you get older.

People think it is possible to catch up on sleep if they have not been getting enough, but that is not how the body works.

For most individuals, a minimum amount of sleep they need each night to maintain proper brain and body function. This amount of sleep is based on having enough sleep cycles through the night that contain REM sleep.

Why Do We sleep?

Getting a solid night of sleep is good for the body and important to overall health.

There’s a large amount of research to determine what is normal during sleep. When people do not get enough sleep they are more likely to develop long-term medical problems such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Trouble maintaining blood sugar
  • Increased weight
  • A decrease in mental health

Sleep problems can affect children and adults in different ways, but everyone benefits from restful sleep.

REM sleep apps

A number of sleep apps are available for smartphones and devices. These apps keep track of how long your body stays in each stage of sleep.

This is usually done by keeping your smartphone next to you on the bed or through a device like a smartwatch.

After a few nights of sleep tracking, you can determine if you are getting the sleep you need. This is a great way to discover if you are missing out on the most restful stages of sleep.

Once you know your sleep patterns, you can identify ways to improve your sleep habits.

How to Improve Your Sleep

Your mattress and pillow are the keys to a good night sleep

A supportive mattress and pillow are important for getting proper rest. A comfortable position during sleep allows for more REM stages during the night.

During sleep, you relax and your body weight reduces blood flow to some of the blood vessels going to the skin. The skin’s pain sensors send a message to the brain that it is time to roll over.

This movement temporarily interrupts your sleep and can even wake you up. A comfortable sleep environment is essential to achieving more REM sleep each night.


Mattresses that reduce pressure on your body give you a better night’s sleep.

Because everyone’s body is different, selecting the right mattress is not only important but personal. Whether you’re comfortable with a firm mattress or soft support the decision is your own.

Often, a medium-firm mattress a mattress with a softer top will create the best support for a good night’s sleep. Finding the right mattress for your body is essential to staying comfortable.

You can find mattresses in a variety of types ranging from traditional innerspring core to memory foam. Different bed components can be joined together to create the perfect mattress for you.

If you are experiencing restless nights or daytime sleepiness you should change your mattress. Sometimes mattresses are no longer the best fit due to body changes, such as weight loss or weight gain. It is also possible that your mattress has lost support over time, a new mattress is necessary to get the REM sleep you need.

Discussing your needs with a mattress specialist can help you find the right fit.


The right pillow holds your head, neck, and spine in a comfortable position during sleep. Proper alignment of the upper body relieves pressure along the entire body.

When the neck and shoulders do not have support, the spine and body are out of alignment. The strain placed on the neck, shoulders, and back can lead to sleeplessness.

Pillows are available in a wide variety of materials and firmness. Finding the right pillow for your body can improve your sleep.

Take the time to find the right mattress for your needs. Choose the right mattress and pillow for your body. You will experience longer, more frequent REM and a better night’s sleep.

Where to Begin

A comfortable mattress and pillow are essential to your health. Experience the best sleep, REM sleep, by upgrading your bedroom.

It’s time to weigh your options and discover what works best for your needs. Does your spine align perfectly with a cushiony top? Or do you require that extra firmness to feel at ease?

Find the perfect mattress for your body and you’ll experience the best night of your life.

By working with a trusted mattress company you can guarantee you’re getting the best sleep at the right price.

It’s time to make the change.


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