Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 2-Feb-2012

iStock_000014593347XSmallEvery night when your head hits the pillow and you find that last cool spot in the bed, a sense of calm comes over you as you drift off to sleep.Or so you think it’s a sense of calm! Actually, when you sleep, your body is working overtime to restore energy from the day’s activity. In certain segments of your sleep, low voltage brain waves, irregular breathing and heart rate are being prompted. This phase of sleep is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

In fact, there are two basic phases of sleep: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. The body fades in and out of REM and non-REM sleep throughout the night. Cycles typically begin with non-REM sleep then a short period of REM sleep to follow.

REM sleep is where most of our dreams are had. We will usually go through four to five REM sleep cycles a night, each lasting only 10 to 15 minutes. Polysomnograms have shown that this phase of sleep can be easily compared to the way our bodies function while we are awake.

This phase is where involuntary muscle jerks, increased heart rate and heavy breathing occur—and most significantly, violent eye movement. These eye movements, also known as saccades, are the fastest moving external part of the human body, reaching angular speeds of 1,000 degrees per second.

Only about 20 percent of adults’ total sleep time is spent in REM sleep, while infants can spend up to 50 percent in this stage. Adults over 70 spend less than 10 percent of their sleep in the REM phase.

It is important that we get the sleep we need in order for our bodies to have time to renew themselves for the next day. An average of 7 or 8 hours is recommended for adults, 9 hours for teens, and 16 to 18 hours per day for infants. People who do not get enough sleep may experience depression, impaired memory and decreased immune response.

REM sleep occurs naturally and is just a part of the body’s restoration process; so don’t be afraid to experience it. Just lie down, relax and let the brain activity begin!

For more information about Key-Whitman Eye Center, please visit our website at www.keywhitman.com or call us at 855-600-7296 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced eye doctors.

Categories: Eye Health
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