Sleep is extremely important for performance, learning, development, and physical and mental health. Too little sleep can lead to poorer performance and decision-making ability, alongside reductions in muscle recovery and immune function. In order to perform our best, not only must we train regularly and eat healthy foods, but obtaining adequate rest and recovery is vital.
What is REM sleep?
REM, or rapid eye movement, is a phase of sleep characterized by the most obvious behavior: fluttering (or rapid) eye movement. During REM sleep your brain is highly active, which might explain why you do most of your dreaming during this phase. Your heart rate also increases and your breathing rate becomes irregular. To ensure you don’t actually act out any of your dreams, your body relaxes and you experience a temporary loss of muscle tone. Think of it as a protective mechanism so you don’t injure yourself during your dreams.
When does REM sleep occur?
Your first cycle of REM sleep occurs 90 minutes after falling asleep. As part of a typical sleeping pattern, you cycle through four stages of sleep: three cycles of non-REM sleep followed by one cycle of REM sleep. This pattern is repeated every 90-120 minutes, with the majority of your REM sleep occurring in the latter half of the night.
How much REM sleep do adults need?
General recommendations for sleep include 7-9 hours of sleep for both psychological (ability to learn, motivation, and memory) and physiological (metabolism and inflammation) recovery. Not surprisingly, athletes require a greater quantity of sleep to recover from injury, intense training periods, and competition. All sleep is important, but REM sleep plays a critical role in dreaming, memory, healthy brain development, and recovery. During REM sleep, your brain processes new learnings and motor skills from the day, helping to commit some of them to memory. Recovery during sleep is promoted through the release of hormones, like growth hormone, which aids in muscle repair, muscle building, and bone growth. Melatonin, a hormone stimulated by darkness and released during the night, has a range of antioxidant properties which can influence recovery and health.
While infants and children require the most REM sleep since their brains and bodies are still developing, adults only need an average of 2 hours of REM sleep each night. A greater frequency and duration of REM sleep, however, is suggested to enhance the recovery process and lead to more optimal wakefulness.
Why is REM sleep beneficial to active adults?
Although there are many strategies to manage fatigue, stress, and recovery, sleep can contribute significantly to recovery from fatiguing events, including both cognitive and physiologically demanding tasks. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is considered common among athletes, with sleep duration and sleep quality often neglected as a recovery tool to optimize performance.
Previous research has demonstrated significant decrements in performance following sleep deprivation, including reduced motivation, reduced cognitive processes, heightened levels of perceived exertion, and an increase in pain perception. As little as one night of sleep loss can significantly decrease performance in weightlifting, running, and cycling. Further, partial sleep loss can significantly alter mood state, leading to increases in depression, confusion, fatigue, and anger. Clearly, sleep is vital as it provides an opportunity for your body to recover from training and help prepare it for subsequent training or competition day.
In other news – WATCH: Siyabonga Zubane’s Memorial Service leaves many in tears
The star has left deep wounds in the hearts of many loved ones, Rest In Peace! Industry colleagues, friends, and family of Gomora actor Siyabonga Zubane who died last week Sunday, 1 May gathered yesterday at the Johannesburg Theatre in Braamfontein to remember and honour his life at his memorial service.
His mother Thobile Zubane spoke in true pain, and colleague and actor Gabriel Mnisi ran the program, sang and gave a short sermon, and the Urban Gospel group Hush performed. Learn more