Get Some Sleep: Why do we have REM?
|Author: Shelly Nolloth|
Date: Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
|Return to Archive|
One key aspect of REM sleep is that all physical characteristics studied to date are different in REM when compared with non-REM. In fact, REM sleep more closely resembles the waking state. That is likely why people are more alert when they are awakened out of REM compared with other sleep stages.
REM sleep is when we do most of our dreaming, but not all, as researchers thought in the past. Most scientists agree that it is in REM that we have our most vivid, what I call, our magic-carpet-ride dreams, whereas the mundane kind of dreams can happen in non-REM.
Now, the question of why we dream is a whole other matter that deserves its own discussion. Suffice to say that there are many different theories at this time.
There is some debate as to whether all birds and mammals display REM sleep. Most do, so the important thing to remember is that it is not uniquely human.
Interestingly, the average daily amount of REM sleep for a given species appears strongly correlated with how immature the young are at birth. Animals that born in helpless state, such as the platypus and the armadillo, have high amounts of REM sleep at birth and indeed a high amount in maturity.
But the dolphin, which is born able to swim, feed and defend itself, has such little REM sleep that it has been questioned whether it has any at all. Humans fall somewhere in the middle in terms of amount of REM sleep, even though it strikes me that a human baby is pretty helpless for a long time.
REM sleep is present at birth in humans and it is the non-REM sleep stages that take 2-6 months to distinguish themselves. From 6 months until well into old age, REM sleep remains stable in healthy people and makes up 20-25% of the total sleep time.
REM occurs at the end of the 90-minute sleep cycles that characterize normal human sleep. The amount of REM increases as the night progresses and as one goes through repeated cycles so that although REM might only make up 10 minutes of the first cycle, it can last for 30 minutes during the last cycle.
As I stated earlier, the physiologic changes that occur during REM are closer to wake than to non-REM, with a couple of interesting exceptions. Mammals, including humans, can regulate their body temperature except in REM sleep.
During REM, we all turn into lizards and our body temperature drops or rises with the temperature of the surrounding environment.
The other unusual change is that in REM our large muscle groups are almost paralyzed. We think that this is protective mechanism so that when we are having those wild dreams about running away from the big bad wolf we can't actually get up and start running in our sleep.
There is a disorder, called REM Behavior Disorder, where people lack this muscle weakness in REM and indeed they often hurt themselves or others.
So why do we have this unusual type of sleep? Briefly, today there are two main theories.
One is that we have sleep that resemble wake so that we can still get the benefits of sleep, but if we need to awaken quickly and be alert and ready to defend ourselves, then we can.
The other, and they are not mutually exclusive, is that because certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, histamine and norepinephrine are turned off during REM, then perhaps REM represents the down time that these important substances need in order to replenish themselves or reset their receptors.
- All Categories
- Academic Outreach
- Continuing & Professional Development
- Distance Learning
- Summer Sessions
- Winter Term
- Career & Workforce Development
- Lifelong Learning
- Society for Lifelong Learning
- WKU On Demand
- Study Away
- Faculty-Led Study Abroad
- Center for Faculty Development
- Cohort Programs
- Dual Credit
- Conferencing & Catering
- All Categories
- March 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS October 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS March 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2012 E-Newsletter
- April 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS November 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2012 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS March 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May/June 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2013 E-Newsletter
- Archived CHHS News
- CHHS October 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2013 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS April 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS December 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2014 E-Newsletter
- CHHS January 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS February 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS September 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS November 2015 E-Newsletter
- CHHS October 2015 E-Newsletter
- December 2015 ICYMI
- January 2016 ICYMI
- MAY 2016 ICYMI
- February 2016 ICYMI
- CHHS September 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS August 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS July 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS June 2011 E-Newsletter
- CHHS May 2011 E-Newsletter
Relocate Vehicles by 5 PM Friday
5/31 - 6/1
Need to reach us over the summer? Don't forget that our hours change! Click to find full dates and times of opening.
Eura Shin, a second-year student at The Gatton Academy, has received a funded summer internship in Germany through a competitive, international scholarship.
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,