What habits are best for proper REM sleep

Courtesy of Andisheh A on Unsplash

Andre Namink

The mystery of how we submerge into the state of the unknown, fantasy and ambiguity is uncovered through rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

The purpose of these bizarre adventures we encounter every night is an even greater phenomenon. Researchers continue to unwrap the psychology and purpose of dreaming, while the physiology of dreams presents benefits through REM sleep.

There are four stages of sleep. The first three comprise non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the last stage is REM.

REM sleep is a vivid-dream inducing phase of deep sleep, characterized by the eyes moving rapidly. According to the Sleep Foundation, the brain’s activity resembles its activity when awake, but the muscles experience atonia (muscle paralysis), excluding breathing functions.

Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor of psychiatry and sleep medicine at Stanford University, discussed some benefits of REM sleep.

“REM seems in particular to be involved in things like processing of procedural memories, how they learn things, and REM also might play a role in resetting emotions,” Pelayo said.

While REM sleep seems to be involved in the consolidation of emotional memories, Zlatan Krizan, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University explained some complications.

“You’re trying to consolidate lessons learned but not basically get traumatized if these emotional charges are very strong,” Krizan said.

Mark Blumberg, a professor and chairman of the psychological and brain sciences department at the University of Iowa, said it’s important to make sure you’re not too hot or too cold because the body will not go into REM sleep if the temperature isn’t right.

The first REM cycle occurs about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, lasting around 10 minutes for the initial cycle, but it gets progressively longer throughout the night according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

The biggest association with REM sleep is vivid-dreaming. Nevertheless, the nature of why we dream is inconclusive. Since Sigmund Freud’s research on the topic, various dream theories try to give insight into the dream phenomenon.

“I think that dreaming right now, the way I think of it, is an epiphenomenon,” Pelayo said. “Dreaming may be an epiphenomenon of whatever else is going on in our brains during REM sleep. That’s how I come to think of it, so it’s kind of a bonus.”

Krizan explained that the purpose of dreaming clearly isn’t remembering them. He said it’s not clear what the importance of dreaming as a conscious activity itself is beyond the factors occurring in REM sleep.

“What we know about people who never remember dreams, they still dream just as anybody else, and we know that because if you put them in a lab and monitor brain waves and wait till the end to REM and wake them up, they will report a dream just as frequently,” Krizan said. “So clearly, it’s not about having dreams per se; the dreams are important. But they’re important because everybody has them, so maybe it’s really just about the visual processing.”

Even though dream psychology is indefinite, dreams can still be interpreted and have meaning through subjective experiences.

“You can interpret a dream, but the interpretation should come from the dreamer itself,” Pelayo said. “Somebody can discuss with you how they view it, but it’s not the role of the third-person to interpret the dreams for you.”

Pelayo stated that dreams are often a reflection of your life. Dreams can be interpreted in a way that helps the dreamer understand what is going on in their world.

Krizan said that people see a lot of meaning and foretelling of the future in their dreams. He said culture ascribes importance to dreams.

“Dreams are personal,” Krizan said. “Dreams do have emotional meaning for dreamers that dream them and that they reflect significant emotional current concerns for daily life.”

Society has always emphasized the overall importance of sleep. Sleep should be a priority as it extends to every aspect of life.

“Any medical condition that you have will be made worse if you don’t get enough sleep,” Pelayo said. “That involves physical conditions, psychophysical conditions and also psychological problems.”

Pelayo emphasized that sleep deprivation causes people to become inattentive and impulsive. Any situation where being inattentive can be dangerous or life-threatening is more likely to occur. He said a lack of sleep is an independent risk factor in suicidal behavior.

“Among the most common causes of death in your age group and the readers of this article are car accidents and suicide. Those are things that are impacted directly by lack of sleep,” Pelayo said. “That’s why we think that sleep is important for mental health and overall wellness.”