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Is REM Sleep Important?

The sleep cycle is quite fascinating.  We go through 5 stages of sleep and the stage known as “Rapid Eye Movement” (REM) accounts for about 20-25 % of our sleep cycle.  During REM, the brain activity increases to the level seen when we are awake.  Other physiological effects include an increase in heart and breathing rates, rapid eye movements, muscle contractions and heightened sexual arousal.

Chemically, during REM sleep an increase production of leptins occur and these are natural appetite suppressant hormones.  Conversely, a decrease in production of ghrelins takes place and these chemicals promote an increase in appetite.

A very common “disruptor” of REM sleep is the use of alcohol.  Even relatively small amounts of alcohol ingestion may reduce the amount of REM sleep significantly.  Nicotine has also been shown to adversely impact the amount of REM sleep that occurs.  There have been some studies that suggest that marijuana usage may reduce the amount of REM sleep as well.

So, for weight control purposes, getting more REM sleep is more advantageous.   If you find yourself well rested after sleep and do recollect having a good number of dreams, the chances are that you are having good quality REM time.  However, if you feel tired/sluggish after sleep and do not remember dreaming much then you may not be having adequate REM sleep.

The more leptin production and the less ghrelin production the better for weight control so if you are having those glasses of wine at night or smoking that green stuff in the baggies that are in your night stand, think “REM” and do not indulge. 

2 Responses

  1. What do you recommend to someone who neither drinks any alcohol nor smokes but still feels they are not getting enough R.E.M. sleep?

    1. Establish a bedtime routine. Following the same bedtime routine every night prepares the body and mind for sleep. Keep your bedroom dark completely, keep the room temperature below 67 F. Do not drink any water 2 hours prior to your sleep time.

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