The Paradox of REM Sleep: An Active Brain in a Resting Body

Active brain sleeping body

“It’s called paradoxical sleep or active sleep, because REM sleep is actually very close to being awake,” said Dr. Rajkumar Dasgupta, a sleep medicine and pulmonary specialist at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

Before scientists discovered rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in the 1950s, it wasn’t clear that much of anything was happening in the brain at night. Researchers today, however, understand sleep as a highly active process composed of very different types of rest — including REM, which in some ways doesn’t seem like rest at all.

While the body typically remains still during REM sleep, the brain is very much active. It’s generating vivid dreams, as well as synthesizing memories and knowledge. Scientists are still working to unravel exactly how this strange state of consciousness works.

The Sleep Cycle: When REM Occurs

Throughout the night, “We’re going in and out of this rhythmic, symphonic pattern of the various stages of sleep: non-REM 1, 2, 3 and REM,” said Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Non-REM Sleep 

  • Stage 1: Light sleep when you first doze off 
  • Stage 2: Deeper sleep with slowed breathing/heart rate 
  • Stage 3: Very deep sleep for body repair/recovery

REM Sleep 

  • Brain waves speed up
  • Eyes move rapidly behind lids 
  • Vivid dreaming occurs 
  • Muscles paralyzed

Ideally, you cycle through the four stages in 90- to 110-minute cycles that repeat four to six times per night. Most REM sleep happens in longer cycles toward the end of the night right before waking.

Key Benefits of Quality REM Sleep

Research shows REM sleep is vital for:

Emotional Health

“It’s like a form of overnight therapy,” said Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

REM helps process emotional experiences and traumatic memories. By stripping emotional charge from difficult events, REM regulates mood and contributes to mental health. Disruptions to REM sleep have been linked to conditions like depression and anxiety.

Memory Consolidation

During REM sleep, your brain integrates new information and experiences from the day into existing knowledge networks. This memory consolidation process essentially “locks in” recently learned material to boost recall.

Creativity and Problem-Solving

The novel connections made in the brain during REM improve capacity for creative thinking and problem solving. Studies show improved performance on creative tasks after REM-rich late-night sleep.

Health Risks of Skimping on REM

If you shortchange your REM sleep, consequences may include:

  • Slower thinking and forgetfulness
  • Reduced learning capacity
  • Low mood and emotional volatility

“Dysregulated REM sleep is also linked with cognitive and mental health issues, like slower thinking and depression,” said Dr. Ana Krieger of Weill Cornell Medicine.

Chronically low REM sleep also boosts risk for:

  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Earlier death

One study found each 5% decrease in REM sleep was linked with a 13% greater risk of mortality over 20 years.

Protecting Your REM Sleep

You can’t specifically target REM sleep. But good sleep hygiene helps ensure sufficient high-quality REM:

✅ Consistent bed/wake schedule 

✅ Avoid alcohol 

✅ Limit light/noise disruption overnight 

✅ Cool, quiet, dark bedroom

❌ Don’t shortchange total sleep

❌ Avoid sleep meds if possible 

❌ Treat issues like sleep apnea 

❌ Talk to doctor about medications

“The way to get healthy REM sleep is to focus on getting healthy sleep overall, and let your brain do the rest,” said Dr. Indira Gurubhagavatula of Penn Medicine.

Understanding REM: An Evolving Frontier

Significant gaps remain in understanding precisely how REM impacts health and disease risk. Ongoing research aims to uncover more about:

  • Mechanisms linking REM to neurological conditions
  • Possible methods to enhance REM sleep quality/duration
  • Further connections between REM abnormalities and health outcomes

As the inner workings of REM continue to be elucidated, we’ll expand our ability to leverage its benefits for cognitive, emotional, and neurological wellness.

The Takeaway

While your body rests, your brain remains highly active during REM sleep – making novel connections, processing memories, regulating mood, and potentially supporting longevity. Safeguarding healthy REM patterns allows you to reap its multifaceted benefits for mental and neurological health.

How Bestia May Help You Achieve REM Sleep

Restful sleep is essential for health and wellbeing, which is why some people have found benefit in using Bestia Melatonin supplement. 

Bestia utilizes a liposomal delivery system to encapsulate melatonin and shield it from stomach acid. The liposomal coating enables enhanced absorption into the bloodstream to effectively regulate circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. 

Adequate melatonin helps facilitate quality sleep architecture, including sufficient REM phase time. REM sleep allows the brain and body to restore and recharge, supporting cognitive functions like memory consolidation and emotional regulation.

By optimizing melatonin levels at night, Bestia aims to improve sleep onset, duration, and efficiency. Users report a better ability to fall and stay asleep through the night. They feel more refreshed upon waking, with improved mood, mental clarity and daytime energy.

So if quality sleep is eluding you, consider giving Bestia’s melatonin supplement a try for more restful nights.

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