What is the share of REM sleep in the overall sleep pattern?

REM sleep is not a fully understood phase of sleep . Some sources suggest that REM sleep is a vestige of the past and therefore does not carry any functional load. However, practical sleep research yields different results. 

For example, when it comes to a dream, that is, images that a person remembers after sleep, then the word “sleep” means REM sleep (or REM sleep). Although according to the latest data, the phase of slow sleep is also capable of producing memorable images (dreams), however, these images are not as vivid and emotional as in REM sleep.  

But REM sleep is characterized not only by emotional dreams.

Unfortunately, with age (after about 35 years), along with the aging of the brain, the zones responsible for sleep gradually degrade, and its quality deteriorates. And further. It was found that the shortening of REM sleep in cycles leads to the development of dementia.

REM sleep – what is it

REM sleep is one of the stages of sleep (the fifth stage), recently discovered (1953). The presence of this stage was detected only on the electroencephalogram (EEG).

Synonyms for the name of the fifth stage of sleep are:

  • REM sleep
  • paradoxical dream,
  • stage of rapid eye movements (REM),
  • REM sleep.

The names of the fast – wave stage and paradoxical sleep were obtained due to the fact that the data in the EEG printout are close in terms of values ​​to the state of wakefulness. But the EEG was taken from a sleeping person with a sharp drop in muscle tone. Paradox. The fluctuations in electrical activity are rapid.

In this state of pseudo-wakefulness with increased electrical activity, the eyeballs make rapid movements with the eyelids closed. A connection has been established between the movement of the eyeballs and dreams. It turns out that the eyes seem to be looking at the emerging images. Another paradox.

For reference People who are blind from birth dream of sounds and sensations, they do not have REM. 

It is assumed that REM sleep provides the functions of psychological protection, information processing, and its exchange between consciousness and subconsciousness. This refers to the reaction to the stress received in real life.

During REM sleep, the search activity of the brain starts, which consists in finding a way out of the situation that has developed under stress.

During REM sleep, changes are observed in the vegetative sphere:

  • increased secretion of adrenal hormones,
  • increased cerebral blood flow,
  • heart rate changes
  • various forms of arrhythmias are recorded,
  • jumps in blood pressure are possible,
  • breathing quickens
  • there is an erection of the penis or clitoris.

Sleep neuroanatomy

Sleep is naturally controlled by the brain. More precisely, clusters of neurons that form hypnogenic centers.

There are three types of governance structures:

  • slow sleep,
  • REM sleep,
  • sleep cycle regulators.

Specifically, REM sleep is controlled by:

  • blue spot,
  • vestibular nuclei of the medulla oblongata,
  • superior colliculus of the midbrain,
  • reticular formation of the midbrain (REM centers).

It is these clusters of neurons that degrade with age as the brain ages. There are fewer and fewer vivid dreams, and the dream itself becomes intermittent.

REM sleep phase in infants

For babies, REM sleep is very important. The active development of the brain and the entire nervous system occurs precisely in this phase. Neural connections are formed in the brain, thanks to which the baby gets his first skills in life.

The structure of sleep in an infant does not differ from that of an adult. REM sleep and REM sleep are also present. In the process of slow sleep, the child grows. All systems of the child’s body develop.

For reference It was found that the first couple of months in infants REM sleep predominates (3/4 of all sleep). Based on the results, young mothers can personally see the results of brain development in the form of a more meaningful look of the child. 

Closer to six months of age, the REM phase decreases to 40% of the total sleep duration.
Let’s also pay attention to the fact that the sleep cycle of an adult and a child is different. From one and a half to two hours for adults, up to 45-80 minutes for a child. The shortened cycle explains the frequent awakening of babies at night.

Slow and REM sleep – what’s the difference

Understand the difference between slow and fast sleep on the table of indicators. Even a cursory glance at the table reveals the differences.

Number of stagesfourone.
Depth of sleepdeepsurface
Having dreamscalm, poorly rememberedbright, emotional, retained in memory
Eye movementno or very slowfast
Muscle toneslightly lowereddramatically weakened
Breathrare, stablearrhythmic
Palpitationsslowed downaccelerated
Body temperaturereducedincreased
Duration75-80% sleep duration20-25% sleep duration

Since the basics have already been laid out on REM sleep, to understand the differences with REM sleep, briefly on this stage.

Slow sleep is the basis of regenerative processes in the tissues and organs of the body. This can be seen from the parameters in the table. By analogy with a computer, in order to exclude possible failures of biochemical processes, the heartbeat, breathing, and movement of the eyeballs slow down.

For reference That is, in the stage of slow sleep, everything in the body freezes in favor of recovery processes. 

It is assumed that at the same time there is an ordering of information accumulated during wakefulness, including the translation of short-term memory into long-term memory. But these are only assumptions.

During slow wave sleep, there is an increased synthesis of protein macromolecules (including in the brain), which are further used during REM sleep and during wakefulness.

If REM sleep prevails over slow sleep

REM sleep is undoubtedly an important part of the overall cycle. This becomes especially noticeable after suffering stress. The search activity of the brain has been shown to stimulate REM sleep control centers to lengthen this phase.

Thanks to REM sleep, a kind of reboot of the brain occurs, which adapts the nervous system to external changes (stressful situation).

However, remember that REM sleep is accompanied by an increase in heart rate, increased breathing, and a slight increase in blood pressure. For relaxation, this is not very good.

For reference A longer phase of REM sleep is more often observed in choleric people – people with an emotional personality type. Conclusions can be drawn from this. 

Contrary to popular belief about disconnecting from reality during sleep, sounds become a source of information during REM sleep. Noise does not always wake us up, but a person can wake up from the fact that someone even quietly calls him by name. Also, during REM sleep, sounds can be built into the dream and become part of it.

It is appropriate to recall here that, although during REM sleep, the body’s indicators are similar to those in the waking state, you should not wake a person unnecessarily. The psyche will suffer.

Interruption of REM sleep causes more severe mental disturbances compared to REM sleep disturbances.

The best time to wake up is when you exit REM sleep.
Thus, predominance of REM sleep over Slow sleep is not a good option. It is necessary that the body has time to restore energy costs and reboot the brain.

Slow and REM sleep is the norm for an adult

It is difficult to answer the question of how long a REM sleep lasts. Slow sleep should also be taken into account.

We do not consider sleep disorders in this material. 

Sleep phases are combined in cycles, that is, they alternate in a strict sequence. For a healthy adult, one normal sleep cycle is 1.5-2 hours. Pay attention to the definition – this is for a healthy person. Today, 3-4 sleep cycles are considered sufficient for proper rest, that is, the duration of sleep is 6-8 hours. And this is also for a healthy person.

Attention. It’s not the best solution to experiment with your own body in an attempt to reduce the duration of sleep. Each organism has its own norm. Here is the norm to be determined empirically. 

Sleep studies have found that sleep demand increases with various medical conditions.

The ratio between slow and fast sleep is about 75 to 25 %%. It is approximately. However, with age, this ratio changes towards a decrease in REM sleep. From 20% in a middle-aged person to 15% in the elderly.
The first phase of REM sleep, which occurs 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep, lasts 5 to 10 minutes. With each cycle, the duration of the REM sleep phase increases.

REM sleep is very important for memory and brain function in general. Therefore, reducing the duration of REM sleep will impair the intellectual capabilities of a person.

American researchers have come to the conclusion that the shortening of REM sleep in cycles leads to the development of dementia (senile dementia). Moreover, reducing each phase of REM sleep in the cycle by just 10 minutes increases the risk of developing dementia by 10%.  

Also, a decrease in REM sleep can lead to the development of narcolepsy. With this disease, a person falls asleep literally on the go, and in any place and in any position.

How to regulate sleep

It is logical that the phases of the sleep cycle should be close to normal in duration.

Often people who do not have a stable life schedule think this way: today I will work late, and tomorrow I will have enough sleep. If you wake up earlier in the morning, there will be a deficit in REM sleep, which can indeed be compensated for with a 20-30 minute lunch break or the next night.

For reference However, with a slow phase, such tricks will not work, because our rest begins with it. 

The simplest thing that follows from the instability of the sleep cycle is disability problems. Lack of sleep has the ability to accumulate. Even at a young age, it is not so sensitive. But after 35 years, every year it becomes more difficult to compensate for losses due to disruptions in the sleep cycle. Chronic sleep deprivation is possible.

Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, is a catalyst for aging. Along the way, the endocrine system fails, the growth hormone ceases to be produced, from which a person’s belly begins to grow sharply.

You can, of course, “get hooked” on all kinds of pills to regulate sleep. However, the easiest way is to sleep and wake up.

The recommendations are simple:

  • find a convenient time for yourself to fall asleep (more often it is from 22.00 to 23.00),
  • try to maintain the required amount of sleep for your body,
  • do not break the regime even on weekends (it is clear that this is difficult, but necessary),
  • pay attention to physical activity during the day (always with deep breathing – ventilation of the lungs),
  • stop exercising and eating three hours before bedtime,
  • create a comfortable atmosphere in a room with a sleeping place (temperature, silence).

These recommendations do not require an investment of money. They only require perseverance. However, their implementation will become more familiar and easier every year. And over time, you will see the result.

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