By: Shannon Keane, MSN, FNP-C, PMHNP-BC
Chronic sleep problems are prevalent in our modern society. Recent studies suggest that approximately 56% of Americans suffer from sleep problems, in comparison to 31% of Western Europeans and 29% of Japanese.
Sleep problems are an evolving global public health concern. Poor sleep is known to be correlated with reduced motivation, emotional dysregulation, and cognitive dysfunction. Not only is our mental health affected by poor sleep, but our physical health can also be affected by poor sleep patterns. In a typical night, a person goes through 4-6 sleep cycles. Each sleep cycle is composed of 4 different stages. The first 3 stages are non-rapid eye movement (NREM), and the 4th stage is rapid eye movement (REM).
During REM sleep, brain activity increases while the body experiences temporary paralysis of the muscles. Although the body muscles are temporarily paralyzed, the eyes and the muscles around the lungs keep functioning. The eyes typically can be seen moving quickly under the eye lids, hence the name, “rapid eye movement”. REM sleep has been studied to be essential to functions in the brain like memory, learning, and cognitive functioning. We can identify if we reach REM sleep if we experience vivid dreams. These vivid dreams are explained by a significant increase in brain activity. Although, it’s important to note that dreams can occur in any of the 4 sleep stages, but they tend to be less common and intense in the NREM stages.
Typically, one doesn’t enter the REM sleep stage until after 90 minutes of sleep has been reached. All sleep stages are important, but REM sleep is particularly important because of its vital role in memory, emotional processing, and healthy brain development. Adequate sleep hygiene is a great initial step to tackle our sleep issues. It is essential that we practice healthy sleep habits to ensure that we attain restful deep sleep every night.
about the authorS
Jadon Webb, M.D., Ph.D.
Owner, Bloom Mental Health
Disclaimer: this blog is NOT intended as medical advice and does not imply any kind of specific guidance or treatment recommendations, and should NOT be used to guide a treatment protocol. (read full disclaimer)