Have you ever felt so tired and drained from the day’s tasks, duties and activities, and yet find yourself unable to sleep as soon as you hit the sack?
Do you ever toss and turn at night? Or do you wake up in the middle of the night and then can’t fall asleep again until sunrise? If you are thinking ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you might be sleep deprived.
The body cycles between rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep stages.
While dreaming occurs in all stages of sleep, most of it happens during REM sleep, the first instance of which occurs about an hour and a half after falling asleep and lasts for around 10 minutes.
The next instances last longer, with the final REM sleep lasting up to one hour.
It’s called rapid eye movement sleep because in this stage, your eyes move quickly in different directions, usually left and right. However, there’s more to REM sleep than just eye movement.
Why is Getting a Good Night of Sleep Important?
Sufficient sleep is crucial for good health. It is the time when we process information and experiences, and rebuild and regenerate our body. Disruptions in this process will lessen the body’s optimal functioning and could possibly result in not feeling well and even illness.
During sleep, our brain is very active – contrary to the belief that it is turned off. Fact is, that our brain waves are very dynamic during sleep and its activity fluctuates from highly active to moderately active depending on what sleep cycle we are in. This brain wave activity is visible on an Electroencephalograms (EEG).
There are different stages of sleep we transition through during any given night.
The first stage NREM – Non-Rapid Eye Movement, which begins as a person transitions from a state of awakeness to nodding off. As we delve deeper into the NREM cycle, we are increasingly less responsive to our external environment.
The next stage is called REM – Rapid Eye Movement, describing exactly what happens: our eyes move rapidly back and forth. It’s a phase during which our brain is quite active and we have vivid dreams. This is the time when our body repairs and regenerates itself. We process information and experiences, which leads to the generation of memories. These two cycles alternate throughout a night’s sleep.
Good sleep not only improves health and memories, it also could extend people’s lifespan.
Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, stated that the quality of sleep is directly related to the quality of life.
A 2010 study involving women ages 50-79 revealed that women who sleep for five hours or less have a shorter lifespan than those who sleep for more than 6 hours per night.
Lack of sleep can also result in weight gain. According to Dr. Chris Winter, owner of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia, the brain needs energy to function and if sleep does not offer the required resources, a person tends to eat to stay awake.
Sleep deprivation reduces our reaction time, motor skills and overall neurological functions. We are less alert, less productive, less thorough, all of which leads to lower performance, and increases the potential for injuries and accidents.
What Happens During REM Sleep?
In contrast to the other sleep stages where the breathing, heart rate and brain waves slow down, during REM sleep the brain is more active, and the heart rate and breathing become faster – nearly the same as when you are awake.
Because the brain is more active, your dreams at this stage are more vivid and intense.
It’s been found that the more often you have REM sleep, the more restful the entire sleep experience is. REM sleep is also believed to play a role in mood, memory and learning. As you age however, you spend less of your time asleep in this stage.
This means that as you get older, you dream less and get less quality sleep.
Lack of Dreaming in REM Sleep
One study has found that lack of dreaming in REM sleep can be linked to cognitive concerns later in life. According to the study, when you experience less REM sleep intervals, there is a 9 percent higher risk of memory and cognitive concerns as you age.
It was also found that if REM sleep was experienced for more than one-fifth of participants’ sleeping hours, no age-related cognitive problems were detected.
The study suggests that to have long-term cognitive health, you need to dream while in REM sleep.
How to Achieve and Increase REM Sleep
Sleep, particularly REM sleep, can be affected by a number of factors including what you eat and drink during the day. For instance, drinking caffeinated beverages can hinder you from getting REM sleep.
Sleep aids, antidepressants and nicotine may also suppress REM sleep.
Here are some of the things you can do to make sure you get as much REM sleep as you can.
Learn More: Why Can’t I Sleep?
Check Your Mattress and Replace if Necessary
The bed you sleep on can affect how you sleep at night. Consider using a memory foam mattress to help you sleep better. If you want to achieve REM sleep, you need to be as comfortable as possible.
If your mattress is already sagging or lumpy, it may be causing you to toss and turn during the night, preventing you from getting deep sleep, which is a precursor to REM sleep.
Choose a mattress that would suit your needs and preferences, such as sleeping position and body temperature regulation.
The nicotine withdrawal your body will experience in the morning will wake you prematurely.
Don’t drink alcoholic drinks close to bedtime. While many people drink alcohol to get sleepy and overcome insomnia, alcohol (along with caffeine) disrupts the body’s natural chemistry and interferes with its natural sleep process.
If you want to have quality sleep, drink tart cherry juice instead.
Home Remedies to Improve Sleep:
- Curb Your Coffee Intake at Night
- Cut Back on Alcohol a Few Hours Before Heading to Sleep
- Take a Contrast Shower to Relax Your Body
- Turn Off External Distracts (cell phone, tablet, television, stereo, etc)
- Maintain a Suitable Room Temperature for a Comfortable Sleep Environment
- Use a Good Memory Foam Mattress
- Use Supplements that Encourage Proper Sleep
- Use Essential Oils that Promote Sleep
Kandala Nity Nite Essential Oil Blend
Kandala Nity Nite Essential Oil Blend is a combination of essential oils of lavender, Spanish marjoram, cedarwood, mandarin, clary sage and German chamomile.
This carefully selected blend of relaxing oils helps calm and relax the mind and body. This blend helps to unwind after a hectic day and promotes falling asleep and remaining asleep throughout the night.
Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia):
Scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and stress. It puts the mind and body into a calm, relaxed state that leads into the falling asleep process.
Spanish Marjoram (Thymus Mastichina):
Has sedative effects and is anti-spasmodic. Copaiba (Copaifera Officinales) lowers blood pressure and relaxes the body. Clary Sage is also anti-spasmodic, and is valued for improving mental strength and confidence.
Roman Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis):
Has a calming effect on the nervous system and relaxes the body, as such it helps reduce the uncontrolled spasms of restless leg syndrome.