What Is REM Sleep?

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By somerset
Reviewed
Reviewed: dr. vanta
Article Sources Article Sources
  • 1. 'Sleep Basics: REM & NREM, Sleep Stages, Good Sleep Habits & More.' Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics.
  • 2. Eagleman, David, et al. 'Why Do We Dream? A New Theory on How It Protects Our Brains.' Time, time.com/5925206/why-do-we-dream.
  • 3. 'Dreaming Also Occurs during Non Rapid Eye Movement Sleep.' ScienceDaily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160809121817.htm.
  • 4. 'Stages of Sleep.' Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/stages-of-sleep.
  • 5. 'Dreams: FAQ.' Dreamresearch.net, University of California, Santa Cruz, dreams.ucsc.edu/FAQ.
  • 6. ASA Authors & Reviewers Sleep Physician at American Sleep Association Reviewers and Writers Board-certified sleep M.D. physicians. 'REM Sleep: Why Is It Important?' American Sleep Association, www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/stages-of-sleep/rem-sleep.
  • 7. Publishing, Harvard Health. 'Repaying Your Sleep Debt.' Harvard Health, Harvard University, July 2007, www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Repaying-your-sleep-debt.shtml.
  • 8. 'Nightmares: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment.' Sleep Foundation, 9 Oct. 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/nightmares.
Medical Expert Medical Expert

REM sleep refers to a stage of sleep that occurs every 90 to 110 minutes in which a person can experience vivid dreams, high brain activity, muscular paralysis and rapid eye movement. It occurs more often in children and happens less often as people age. A number of factors can affect REM, including smoking and drinking habits.1‘Sleep Basics: REM & NREM, Sleep Stages, Good Sleep Habits & More.’ Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics.

The research is ongoing about the biological purpose of REM sleep, but there are a number of theories as to why humans and other mammals experience it. Reigning theories include memory building and skill retention.

1. Why Do We Dream?

REM sleep is the stage of sleep in which a person is most likely to dream. The exact reason why dreams occur is unknown, and new theories are constantly being posted by researchers and scientists. Whether it's to form long and short-term memories, practice muscle memory and skills learned through the day or go through survival scenarios, such as dreams of getting chased by wolves, is unclear.

A new theory from neuroscientists postulates that dreams are intended to bolster the activity of the visual cortex of the brain, which would otherwise be inactive at night.2Eagleman, David, et al. ‘Why Do We Dream? A New Theory on How It Protects Our Brains.’ Time, time.com/5925206/why-do-we-dream.

REM Sleep

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