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By now, all my readers should know that I love sleep! Getting adequate sleep is one health facet that I discuss with all my clients, because it is the easiest, most effective way to start feeling better, fast! And, if you are an athlete or an active person, getting adequate sleep is one of the simplest ways to help your performance.
Everyone requires different amounts of sleep. Personally, I need at least 6 hours to function, while, if my husband gets even that much he feels groggier – so strange, I know! I tell my clients and athletes to aim for at LEAST seven hours. This ensures you are getting a good amount of rest and recovery, and that you get a decent amount of time in each sleep stage, including REM and non-REM sleep.
If you wear a Fitbit or another tracking device while you sleep, you have probably noticed you go through several different stages of sleep throughout the night. These stages include several non-REM and a REM sleep stage. During non-REM, brain activity is reduced, so you will not be dreaming during these stages. Non-REM sleep is the dominant sleep stage and includes several phases. During the first phase you are in a very light sleep; your eyes are closed, but you probably wake up very easily. During the second phase, you are still in a light sleep, but your heart rate begins to slow, and your body begins to prepare for deep sleep. Finally, during the third phase you are in a deep sleep. When woken up from this stage you may feel very disoriented… ever happen to you!? During non-REM sleep is when your body repairs, regrows, and rebuilds (bones and muscles); and this is when your immune system is strengthening. Quite literally, non-REM sleep helps with physical recovery! This is important for anyone with a strenuous job or participating in intense workouts.
So, how does REM sleep help us? This article “Everything you Need to Know about REM Sleep” explains it very well! REM sleep stands for Rapid Eye Movement sleep. This type of sleep is when the brain is highly active, you experience rapid eye movements, your muscles are nearly paralyzed, and you are probably dreaming. REM sleep only accounts for 10-20% of your total time spent sleeping, which is why you may have a hard time remembering your dreams, or why you may feel like you never dream. Just like non-REM sleep, REM sleep is beneficial for our health in many ways. REM sleep can help you:
Lerner, I., Lupkin, S. M., Sinha, N., Tsai, A., & Gluck, M. A. (2017). Baseline Levels of Rapid Eye Movement Sleep May Protect Against Excessive Activity in Fear-Related Neural Circuitry. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(46), 11233-11244.
Naiman, R. (2017). Dreamless: the silent epidemic of REM sleep loss. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1406(1), 77-85.
Allison Tropf, MS, RD, CSSD
Allison is a Sports Dietitian in Michigan. She enjoys helping others reach their nutrition and fitness goals through reliable and trustworthy recommendations.
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