Discovering the Relationship Between Sleep, Dreams and REM Stage
What did you dream about yesternight? Sometimes we have the answer to this question but many times not so much. Most of the time we are only left with some hazy images of what we saw and sometimes it looks so real as if it happened in real life. What are dreams? Finding the actual answer to this question still seems far fetched even to the elite researchers in the field. But it should not apply that we don’t know anything about it. We know that we dream during the REM stage of our sleep. This raises the question, what is REM stage?
What is REM Stage?
When one sleeps, his or her brain undergoes almost 5 stages of sleep. REM is one of them. Also known as Rapid Eye Movement, it means that in this stage of sleep your eyeball starts moving in different directions. This doesn’t happen in other stages of sleep so they are called non-REM sleep stages. It starts almost after 90 minutes of a person falling asleep and can occur multiple times in the night. This is the stage when dreams occur so it becomes more important to study.
Studies show that our brain starts working as much as it does when we are awake, during REM stage. Even our breathing pattern changes and it can also become irregular. We engage around 2 hours of REM in a complete sleep which is divided by different sleep cycles.
Is it Important?
Less than 1% of the total population start acting out violently in dreams, this behaviour may be the signs of REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder. Though it happens to a minority but it should be taken seriously as it can point out early symptoms of dementia and even Parkinson’s disease. Not only diseases, many experiments were conducted and it was deduced that depriving REM in rats increased their mortality rates. It was also found out that REM can take upto 50% of an infant’s sleeping time which indicates its importance. Many other birds and mammals also undergo this stage. The only known exception to this are the cold-blooded organisms.
It was also observed that dreams can occur even when a person is not under REM stage but those are not very vivid and remembered.
REM and Dreams
When a person is under the influence of REM their body observes some physical changes like eye movements, changes in breathing patterns, enhanced brain activity and relaxed muscles. As mentioned earlier, our sleep consists of 5 different stages, one of them is deep sleep, REM starts after deep sleep ends. The brain also seems to cut off communications with the spinal cord when REM occurs, this helps the body to stay relaxed and unable to move.
REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder occurs when the brain fails to shut down this communication and people start moving their body and act violently. This has shown that the person with this condition can be dangerous to the person sleeping next to and also to himself. There have been reported incidents of walking, falling down stairs, kicking, punching etc. It is different from typical sleepwalking and should not be confused with. A lot of areas in the brain become active while a person is in REM. These areas are also responsible for learning, processing of information, thinking and management. A focus group of people were taught different sets of skills and were then deprived of REM sleep. It was found out that they were more likely to forget and not remember well, what was taught to them. This directly shows relationships between sound sleep and memory.
Scientists, even today, fail to totally understand and grasp the meaning, working and relationship of dreams. Many theories were suggested but none prove all the aspects. It was even claimed that when we dream, the visions we see are the images from other dimensions or from an alternate reality to which we are able to communicate when we are in that stage.
The most accepted theory is that the brain dreams to strengthen the memories of what we have learned and perceived. It can also help the brain to understand the day’s events and better its grasp of knowledge. Many even suggested that dreams are based on what we are hearing or feeling physically at the time. Since there is no visual input, brain makes up the images and
Visions based on what information of the world it has.
Maybe it will take up some more years of hard work and dedicated research for us to fully comprehend what dreams are and are not. But till then we do know somethings like:
- REM is a crucial part of sleep.
- It is the time when we dream more vividly.
- REM is also very important for the proper functioning of the brain and body.
- Shortage of REM can even lead to increase in mortality rates.
- Sleeping soundly should be prioritized.
So these were some of the points and information that I found intriguing and decided to share with you.
Hope it helps.
Thanks for reading!