REM Sleep

REM sleep (rapid eye movement)

REM sleep fascinates people. It is sort of a strange stage. Just to start, this is the dreaming stage; dreams come out of REM sleep. What is even crazy is that even though this is a sleeping stage, the activity of the brain actually increases; for example in the emotional part (limbic system) and visual cortex, the activity is very intense. This is why they call this stage paradoxical sleep.

25% of your sleep is spent in REM. The first REM episode appears about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The episodes increase in length and intensity towards the end of the night and early morning so that your last REM period occurs at the dawn hours. That is why you would wake up dreaming.

Your body’s physiology changes in a dramatic way when you enter REM sleep. Your eyes move back and forth in a very fast manner and your breathing becomes irregular. Your muscles become fairly paralyzed –so you don’t act out your dreams.

There are certain sleep disordered that occur in REM sleep. Nightmares occur during REM sleep. Another is called REM behavioral disorder (RBD) where people scream and kick and talk from REM sleep because they don’t become fully paralyzed. Narcolepsy is also a disorder where REM sleep can show up uninvited when the person is awake- so they may fall asleep or lose their body tone.