For a tired and worked-up body, nothing is more inviting than a warm and cozy bed.
The feeling of waking up the next day after a good night’s sleep not only makes one recover but also allows you to look forward to the coming day.
After closing your eyes and waking up fresh and energetic the next day, is all the magic of the REM sleep cycle.
Many people are unaware of the REM sleep cycle and don’t pay attention to their sleep schedules.
Studies show lack of REM sleep can lead to increased emotional reactivity, aggressiveness, apathy, and even depression. In addition, it can negatively impact your cognitive and problem-solving skills. Hence making even the slightest of daily tasks a big hurdle.
What is REM Sleep Cycle?
As the name indicates, REM sleep is characterized by the rapid movement of the eyes when a person is asleep.
It is the most profound form of sleep characterized by the appearance of dreams and the lowering of your muscle tone. Muscle recovery and drooling occur in this state of rest.
Studies have shown REM sleep cycle is maintained by a region (suprachiasmatic nucleus) in the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus receives input from the nerve cells present in the eyes to regulate sleep rhythm (circadian cycle) via multiple pathways, including releasing hormones such as ACTH, prolactin, melatonin, and norepinephrine.
The most common pathway observed in sleep is the production of norepinephrine, which in turn stimulates the release of melatonin from the pineal gland (located in the brain).
The purpose of sleep, especially REM sleep, is not well understood.
However, multiple theories have suggested linkage with memory integration and consolidation, neuronal homeostasis, and metabolic conservation.
Factors Affecting REM Sleep Cycle
Any influence or disruption in the mechanism mentioned above for sleep can harm the REM sleep cycle.
These include chemical disturbance in the release of hormones from the hypothalamus or cause irregular sleep.
Improper Sleep Schedule
The REM sleep cycle works on the stimulation of melatonin from the pineal gland.
The secretion of hormones during the day keeps you active while the night ones help your body prepare for sleep and make you sleepy.
This secretion is mainly under the control of the sensory nerve fibers present in the eyes. The brain perceives bright light in the form of “day” and darkness as “night.”
It is because of this reason people suffer from “jet lag” after traveling from a different time zone.
Their brains are already functioning with the set sleeping schedule and confuse the bright lights in the programmed night schedule.
Therefore, it becomes essential to sleep and wake up every day on time. It is crucial to let your body function in a set routine.
As mentioned above, the hypothalamus controls our sleep-wake cycle.
Chemicals such as caffeine stimulate the production of active day hormones such as epinephrine, resulting in temporary wakefulness.
However, you need to make sure not to overuse caffeine. It can disrupt the sleep cycle and make you addicted to its consumption for proper functioning.
People have shown increased daytime drowsiness and a tendency to intake more caffeine, which negatively impacts their performance on the job and health in general.
Lack of Exercise
Fatigue can lead to better sleep, as per a study. This is because it stimulates the increased production of hormones that increase the sensitivity of sleep centers in the brain.
You must have observed we tend to sleep a lot better when our muscles are tired.
The body produces such hormones which induce muscle repair, which is provided by REM sleep.
Poor Sleeping Environment
It is commonly observed that when we go to a night stay at a friend’s place, we tend to stay awake.
Our bodies are used to sleeping on the same bed and the same pillow. But, in addition to that, bright lights and noisy environments can impact sleep, especially REM sleep.
Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia can have a negative impact on the quality of sleep.
People suffering can show affected sleeping centers of the brain. This disrupts the natural circadian rhythm patterns, leading to either no sleep or a lot of sleep.
How to Get Better Sleep?
By looking at the factors causing poor sleep, we can develop therapies by which sleep quality can be improved.
Below are some practical ways you can improve your sleep and get more REM sleep.
Developing a Proper Sleeping Schedule
Our bodies like to work on a routine. Therefore, everything we do throughout the day should be scheduled or timed.
The same goes for sleep. As we discussed the REM sleep cycle and ways it can be influenced by hormones, developing a sleeping schedule is essential.
Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This not only helps you sleep better but also helps you wake up fresh and rejuvenated.
We have already discussed the effects of caffeine on our bodies. Therefore, it is vital to watch your caffeine intake. Avoid excess consumption, especially in the latter part of the day.
Caffeine can effectively ruin your sleep cycle and make you prone to fatigue and drowsiness through the next day.
Working out and putting your muscles through strain can help you sleep better. For example, fatigue can induce hormones that target sleep centers of the body and stimulate muscle recovery via REM sleep.
Healthy and fit individuals tend to fall asleep quickly. That makes them more active, fresh and boosts the body’s immunity.
Creating an Ideal Environment for Sleep
This includes dimming the lights, putting out extra noise, and setting the room temperature just the right way. In addition to that, developing a pre-sleep routine has shown encouraging results.
Our bodies follow a routine, therefore developing sleeping rituals such as listening to classical music, reading, or taking warm baths can automatically send calming signals to our body. As a result, it starts producing sleep hormones.
You may also try changing bedsheets or pillows if they are worn out. This, too, can make your sleeping place more comfortable, allowing you to sleep better and effectively.
Medications and Supplements
People suffering from chronic sleep deprivation may consult their doctors for certain sleep medications.
Although supplements are all-natural, it doesn’t mean they are safe.
Supplementations effective for sleep include melatonin, valerian root, magnesium, glycine, tryptophan, and Ginkgo Biloba.
However, you should not take medications on your own. It is very easy to overdose on them. In addition to that, sleeping medications are addictive and can lead to total dependency.
The Bottom Line
According to research and experiments, sleep, especially the REM sleep cycle, is essential for a healthy and stress-free life. People who get 6-8 hours of deep sleep show signs of better health and immunity and are generally more active and happy.
It is imperative to learn the importance of REM sleep and ways to sleep better and effectively every day.