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12 Health Benefits of REM Sleep | Sleep Galleria

12 Health Benefits of REM Sleep

12 Health Benefits of REM Sleep

When it comes to stages of the sleep cycle, REM takes the cake for health benefits. REM begins at about the 90-minute mark after you've fallen asleep. This is when your eyes begin rapid eye movement (REM) behind your eyelids. Most dreams happen during REM, but there are more benefits to REM sleep than just enjoying dreamland.

  1. Process Your Emotions

Getting enough REM sleep may help you process your emotions. The amygdala is a part of the brain that is involved with processing our emotions. During REM sleep the amygdala becomes very active. This increase in amygdala activity suggests that we process our emotions while we sleep, especially during the REM stage.

  1. Learning and Memory

The thalamus is another part of the brain that becomes extra active during REM. Its purpose is to send information to the cerebral cortex. The thalamus is responsible for sending images, sounds, and sensations that we experience in our dreams. The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that processes information from short-term memory to long-term memory. When not in REM, the thalamus isn't very active at all. Experts believe that learning and memory are affected by this increase in thalamus activity during REM.

  1. Promotes Healthy Levels of Melatonin

The pineal gland is the part of the brain that produces the sleep hormone melatonin. During REM, the pineal gland produces more melatonin. This process of releasing melatonin helps us stay asleep, which in turn, promotes better sleep cycles. Better sleep means better health, so getting enough REM sleep can actually help you get enough sleep in general.

  1. May Protect Against Alzheimer's

Now this one gets a little extra-scientific, but REM sleep may help protect against Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases. Research published in the journal, Sleep Disorders, discovered that neuroglobin (Ngb) levels are regulated during REM sleep. "Ngb levels reduce amyloid-beta (Aβ) deposits, decrease levels of Aβ (1-40) and Aβ (1-42), and improve behavioral performance, thereby abating the Alzheimer’s disease phenotype". In other words, Ngb helps fight back against the internal causes of Alzheimer's.

  1. REM Sleep Helps You Live Longer

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looking into the association of REM sleep with mortality rates in middle-aged and older adults. The findings were a bit alarming. Out of over 4000 participants studied, including over 1300 who were followed up with for 20 years, those who had less REM had higher mortality rates. For every measurement of 5% less REM sleep, over 12 years, mortality rates rose by 13%. This means that not getting enough REM sleep can shorten your lifespan.

  1. Helps You Deal with Fear and Trauma

Researchers at the Society for Neuroscience found an interesting relationship between REM sleep and fear associated with trauma. During REM sleep, the brain activity that is responsible for processing fear, stress, and trauma seems to be reduced. This suggests that REM sleep helps us process fear and trauma. Those of us who don't get enough REM sleep are more likely to be susceptible to trauma, as well as the fear and stress that comes with it.

  1. Read People's Minds

Ok, so REM doesn't actually give you the ability to read people's minds. However, research does indicate that the right about of REM helps people read the emotions of others through their facial cues. Study participants who reached REM sleep were better at identifying the expression of positive emotions like happiness. It's no superpower, but it is good to know that REM sleep can help you pick up on other people's body language.

  1. Fight Off Depression

Sleep experts at the American Association of Sleep Technologists tell us that there is a link between depression and REM sleep. People who are suffering from depression have reduced REM sleep latency. Up to 85% of people with depression experience episodes of insomnia, and this relationship between REM sleep and depression may be why. Getting enough REM sleep can help boost your moods and fight off depression.

  1. Reduce Your Chances of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

If you're taking your sleep health seriously, then you're trying to get the right amount of sleep each night, and the maximum quality of sleep you can get during that time. Although whether or not you develop sleep disorders isn't  always in your hands, getting enough REM sleep can help reduce your chances of developing REM sleep behavior disorder, which causes you to act out your dreams physically. This can cause sleep disturbances for you, and your partner if you don't sleep alone.

  1. Have More Vivid Dreams

This next one comes from the Mayo Clinic. Getting the right amount of REM sleep can help us have more vivid dreams. Dreams can happen at any stage of the sleep cycle but are much more vivid during REM. Having vivid dreams may not seem to be the biggest health benefit of REM, but tell that to that dream you've had where you wish you could have stayed in the dream just a little bit longer. Good dreams can turn into good moods upon awakening.

  1. Tune Your Circadian Rhythm

Your circadian rhythm is your body's internal clock. It helps regulate your sleep cycles, including when to fall asleep, how long you stay asleep, and when you wake up. During REM sleep, several neurochemical transmitters and hormones are released. This means if you don't get enough REM sleep, you can throw off your circadian rhythm which can cause all types of sleep problems.

  1. Wake up On Time

There are many benefits to waking up early, and getting enough REM sleep each night can help you wake up on time. As we mentioned in the previous benefit of REM sleep, REM is involved in influencing your circadian rhythm. Not only does this help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but it also helps you wake up in the morning without feeling tired. Healthy REM sleep encourages your body to wake up on time in the morning, and feel rested when you rise.

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