The Benefits of REM Sleep

Did you know that you SHOULDN’T sleep for 8 hours?  You should sleep 7 ½ or 9 hours if you must sleep longer. “WHY?”

Have you ever felt more sluggish after 8 hours of sleep while you feel on the go with just 6 hours?  Understanding the nature of sleep and its patterns allows you to capitalize more on your sleep. 

Our body goes through a 90 minute cycle to finish the REM (Rapid eye movement) cycle. 

The first stage takes about 5-10 minutes after you close your eyes. In this stage, it is easy to wake you up. The 2nd stage is also known as “light sleep” where your body prepares itself for the next stage by lowering your body temperature and slowing down your heartbeat. The 3rd stage is known as “deep sleep” and this is the stage where it is harder to wake you up. Notice that when you jolt awake in the middle of deep sleep, there is a feeling of disorientation for a few minutes. This is also when the body takes time to recover and rebuild. Your body regrows and repairs tissues, builds bone and muscle and the immune system is strengthened in this stage of sleep; which is why bed rest is recommended every time you are sick and injured.  

REM sleep first occurs and eyes move rapidly from side to side.  “Breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels.  Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can also occur in non-REM sleep. Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dream”, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 

The theory of, Chris Winter, MD, the medical director of the Sleep Medicine Center at Martha Jefferson Hospital says that “ the 90 minutes of sleep you get between snoozes is the full sleep cycle, allowing you to wake up after your REM state, instead of during.” 

So if you sleep in increments of 90 minutes, you can say goodbye to drowsiness and sluggishness! You are more likely to feel energized after 4 and a half hours of sleep as compared to 5 hours because the former allowed you to complete a full cycle of NREM and REM sleep. And in cases where you need to do an all-nighter at work, a 1 hour and 30 minute power nap allows you to complete 1 cycle and get a much needed boost.  If you have more time, you may also target 3 hours of sleep and not 4!

Keep this in mind the next time you set your alarm. And remember, when setting your alarm to apply this, take into account the 10-15 minutes it will take for your body to actually fall asleep and start the cycle. 

So if you can’t do a 9 hour or 7 ½ hour sleep; set your alarm for either 6 hours, 4 ½ hours, 3 hours or just take a 90 minute power nap.

 

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