Home > Sleep Patterns > Rapid Eye Movement

Rapid Eye Movement

By: Wendy Jacob - Updated: 25 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sleep Rem Sleep Non Rem Sleep Dreams

It is amazing that the mind and body can be refreshed after a nights sleep. Far from being a time of stillness and relaxation, sleep may take us into parts of the subconscious mind that we are unable to reach during our waking hours...

Sleep is divided into four stages and two distinct states - REM and non REM (deep sleep). The REM (rapid eye movement) state is when the eyes can be seen to move under the eyelids. It is during this state that dreaming occurs. Watch a baby or small child sleeping and the movement of the eyes under the eyelids is clear to see. These movements correspond to recognisable brain waves and EEG readings which record electrical activity in the brain, show that adults also manifest the same phenomenon.

Paradoxical Sleep

REM sleep is when the body and mind are most active. This will differ between individuals but there are distinct stages of REM sleep. Each stage takes the sleeper into a longer period of REM sleep and may be accompanied with a change of position as the brain and body are at their closest to normal daytime activity. The sleeper may be hard to wake as they are experiencing deep muscular relaxation. This stage is also known as 'paradoxical sleep' as the body may also show an increase in heart rate, oxygen consumption and other changes, which resemble the waking state. The sleeper is particularly vulnerable during this time as there is an increased risk of cardiac arrest and asthma attacks.

REM Deprivation

Research has shown that REM sleep is important to wellbeing. When we are deprived of REM sleep, we make up for the 'debt' by incorporating more of this stage into subsequent sleeps. Deprivation causes mood changes, fatigue and loss of concentration. Longer periods of sleep loss may result in 'daytime dreaming'. This is believed to show the psychological importance of dreams. Although the purpose of dreaming is hard to prove, it is believed that babies start to dream at around 25 weeks gestation and that this stimulates the developing brain.

REM and Dreams

During REM sleep the eyes move beneath the closed eyelids. Research suggests that the flickering movements may be synchronised to dream activities. This sensory stimulation is restricted to the eyes preventing the possible danger of the entire body becoming involved in 'acting out' the dream event. This 'safety mechanism' may also explain why dreamers recall dreams where they experience paralysis such as the inability to scream or run away from threatening events.

The brain activity and the physical changes in body functions are of interest to researchers and psychologists who seek to understand the meaning of dreams. It has been proposed that we are dreaming all the time and it is only the more powerful stimulus of the demands of our waking lives that separates us from this realisation. Researches seek to explain the meaning and differences between the different types of dreams - the ones we remember and those that occur during the deeper stages of REM sleep.

Need for REM Sleep

Investigation has shown that individuals reporting poor sleep quality are often suffering from lack of REM sleep. They often exhibit more body movement and less REM sleep, along with some wakeful periods. This suggests that 'sleep quality' may be as important as 'sleep quantity'. Greater understanding of the importance of REM sleep and its connection with dreaming has led to research aimed at understanding the meaning and importance of dreams and the subconscious. By waking sleepers during REM sleep and asking them to recall their dreams, researchers are developing a better understanding of the dreams and images that accompany our slumber.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • julie
    Re: Coughing and Sleep Loss
    Hi I had a cold on Sunday, it started with hit and cold feeling changing every hour, I started taking paracetamol fir it. Before going to…
    14 March 2019
  • Adrienne
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    Why do i get cold at nights? While in day I'm normal? It's been 1 week now after my first encounter about this and I'm worried. Last…
    5 March 2019
  • Ukung
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    While sleeping I feel extreme cold and need two three blankets. My husband, who is on insulin, swets. How can I get rid of this? While…
    15 February 2019
  • steve jaubert
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    Hello, I read a recent email from Dr Carolyn Dean who is involved with marketing products for Magnesium deficiencies. She does have…
    2 November 2018
  • Princess lynn
    Re: Feeling Too Cold to Sleep
    I have tried all of them but for me they don’t work. And I am home alone. My heating is on but I am still cold. What should I do?
    27 October 2018
  • Susie
    Re: Involuntary Jerking While Asleep, What Could it be?
    My partner keeps me awake he his continuously moving his arms and legs all night he doesn't realize…
    17 October 2018
  • Heidi
    Re: Involuntary Jerking While Asleep, What Could it be?
    I would start jerking the second I closed my eyes. I once counted 100 jerks in 45 minutes. They…
    8 October 2018
  • Lollipop
    Re: Understanding Lack of Sleep
    I go to sleep about 10pm, then wake at 12 and then 2am. After that I rarely can get bake to sleep. Sleeping pills don't work. I've…
    23 September 2018
  • Shorty
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    Your site is the first notice I have had of the connection between insomnia and dehydration. Now in my 80s, I have had poor sleep all…
    3 April 2018
  • Imran
    Re: Dehydration and Insomnia
    Hello insominaics I have sleeplessness issue for 4 5 years. I could sleep after 2 3 hours after laying. But one month ago i have…
    30 March 2018