Sleep is an important part of our daily routine as it plays a vital role in our overall health and what we do while we are awake. It is as important as food and water. This fact has been proven by several studies on human sleep patterns and on a daily basis, the only proof that we need is the immediate feeling of exhaustion whenever we don’t get the 7-8 hours of sleep which is recommended for adults.
Our bodies have been conditioned to spend ⅓ of the day sleeping. It is when our body recharges as it goes through various sleeping cycles. Each sleep phase or cycle is important as every stage plays its role in recharging the body. However, the most important stage is what we call the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
During the REM sleep stage is when our brain is most active. Our eyes move rapidly in several directions and the various regions of the brain are being stimulated. This stage is important for normal brain development in newborn babies which explains why they spend the majority of their time sleeping. In adults, it is harder to achieve REM sleep due to several factors which we will discuss further later.
In an article published at sleepfoundation.org, the REM sleep stage helps in improving the cognitive functions such as learning, memory and thinking or analysis. Several studies also found that REM has an impact on the development of mental skills such as focus, motivation, discipline, and socialization, and it also helps increase in the production of proteins which is why professional athletes put so much importance in their sleep.
REM sleep time is also when our brain cells contract so that a fluid can flush through the brain and send toxins out. So REM sleep is literally helping to clean out the junk in your brain. There’s a great explanation of how this works over on YouTube.
What happens when we don’t get quality sleep?
Getting enough sleep is important and the consequences of sleep deprivation won’t be immediately obvious, but slowly, your body will feel the ill-effects. It will gradually impact your emotional health and can cause you to make poor decisions, be unable to concentrate, it can cause migraines, and even prohibit weight loss. Worse than that, it can lead to mental health issues, impair memory, and make you stressed out.
As humans age, nighttime sleep becomes shorter and lighter. We can be interrupted several times during the night by children, and certain foods & medication can also cause interrupted sleep. Adults also tend to sacrifice sleep for longer hours at work or for socializing and travel, thinking we can catch up on sleep during free time. It can help, but this can easily lead to a habit that is not really recommended. That is because when you don’t get quality sleep even for one night, your normal sleeping cycle has been destroyed and your REM sleep stage is disrupted. If your REM is disrupted once, your body’s sleeping cycle won’t go through its normal circadian sleep cycle which we commonly refer to the body’s biological clock. You will go through extended periods of REM sleep until you are able to catch up on the sleep stages that you missed.
Lack of REM sleep is said to be linked to reduced coping skills during stressful situations, poor mental skills such as decision making and concentration can cause migraines and is also associated with weight gain. Studies have emphasized the danger of sleep deprivation. In several studies, people who were sleep-deprived were asked to perform a hand-eye coordination task and what they observed was that sleep-deprived people performed worse than people who were intoxicated. Obviously, this all means that a lack of REM sleep will lead to poor performance at work and having low energy to perform do day-to-day activities.
In extreme cases, sleep deprivation can lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome. It can also trigger other diseases, cause mental health issues, and stress.
What can we do to improve REM sleep?
The goal is to get quality sleep and enhance both REM and NREM sleep so our body and brain can maximize the benefits that sleep brings.
- Treat medical conditions
Being sleep-deprived can be a side effect of a medical condition so it is important to see a doctor first and ask for professional advice.
- Reduce waking up at night
As much as possible, avoid waking up at night as this will hinder or reduce the number of REM phases you are supposed to experience. Turn off any light that might disturb you and put on do not disturb on your phone. Make sure it’s quiet if you are sensitive to noise. Try using earplugs or noise-canceling earbuds.
- Avoid eating and drinking an hour before bedtime
Drinking and eating an hour before bedtime will mean you go to bed without your body still has to digest, and it might stop you from needing to go to the bathroom overnight.
- Organize a Bedtime routine and stick to it
Plan out a bedtime routine and make a habit of going to sleep at the same time each night. For your routine, you can start with a bath or some skincare rituals. Read a book. Turn off all the lights and block all light sources. Try playing some relaxing music before bed. In just a few days, your mind and body will learn that these activities mean you should go to bed soon and the mind will signal the body to prepare for sleep.
One helpful tool to maximize your chances of getting a good night’s sleep is the Bellabee. Bellabee is a band that is worn on the head which is designed to send the right wavelengths for the brain to mimic. It uses the PEMF technology to create the brain’s natural frequency. In just a few minutes, the brain will have a better functioning rhythm.
You would use the Improve Sleep mode and put it on for 2 hours. I often use anti-anxiety and improve sleep mode an hour before sleeping. It’s ok to try out different modes to see which one works best for you.
If you have been struggling to sleep, try out the Bellabee and use it before going to sleep. You can see for yourself how quickly it works. In 3 weeks you should be able to tell if it works for you or not. What’s great is that Bellabee has a 45-day guarantee which is long enough to find out if it can help. In our experience, most people notice results in 1 – 3 weeks. It is definitely worth a try.