Sleep states – what they are and what you gain by moving through them

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If all the talk about REM and non-Rem sleep boggles your mind then look no further than this blog. Here we will help you figure out what these types of sleep are and why they are necessary for your physical and emotional health.

Non-REM Sleep includes the first 3 stages of sleep. From Stage 1 to stage 3 the sleep gets deeper, the muscles get more and more relaxed and the breathing rate slows. It is during non-REM sleep that:

  • The muscles are repaired. As the muscles relax and the person becomes floppy, it is easier for blood to flow bringing oxygen and nutrients most to where they are needed.
  • Muscle memory is laid down. In the brain, successful motor pathways are chosen and reinforced. This allows us to do familiar tasks with more coordination and speed the next day. For example, how to get dressed, how to work the new safe key or how to do a side plait in your hair…

REM Sleep is the final stage of sleep and whilst the body appears relaxed, the brain is at the peak of its electrical activity - most notably in the prefrontal area of the brain. This is the area responsible for human behavior – patience, judgment, strategy and reasoning.

  • Research has shown that REM sleep helps to consolidate emotional human memories. That days data is sorted and only the pertinent information is stored for future use. This prevents a ‘cluttered’ mind and allows us to have clarity of thought the next day. It is often why you wake up with the answer to a difficult problem.
  • REM sleep also prevents chronic mood disorders characterized by anxiety and depression. It is during REM sleep that serotonin and dopamine are created and stored – allowing you access to happy hormones as and when you need them.

Both REM sleep and non-REM sleep are necessary and serve a specific purpose for the body. The primary function of both our light-sleep and deep-sleep phases is to have a regenerative effect on various processes in the body.

A good night’s sleep would involve cycling through the four sleep stages allowing the brain and body to regenerate, preferably waking at the end of a sleep cycle.

Sleep cycles in adults vary between 80 – 110 minutes in length. It is possible to have as few as 3 or as many as 6 sleep cycles per night depending on your body’s natural rhythm.

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