Many people recognize that sleep is important to health. In fact, our bodies need sleep in order to perform rejuvenating functions like muscle growth, protein synthesis, and tissue repair. We also need sleep for mental functions that involve learning and memory, and even appetite and satiety are dependent on sleep.
Not only that, sleep plays an important role in helping us manage stress and emotions. Although important restorative functions occur during all stages of sleep, the phases of deep sleep and REM sleep are the two sleep stages during which our bodies and minds undergo the most renewal.
So, what happens during deep sleep and REM sleep?
Deep sleep: is a quiet phase of sleep where growth and healing happens
During deep sleep, we enter what sleep experts call slow-wave sleep, when we measure brain waves that become slow and large and we see our breathing rate and blood pressure decrease and immune functions get a boost. This sleep phase is most important for physical restoration. The more active we have been during the day and the more sleep deprived we are, the more deep sleep we will have during the night.
During deep sleep, the body releases growth hormones for healing and growth, which aid in cell repair and healthy new cell growth in tissues and organs throughout the body. During deep sleep, the heart rate is also more regular and at its lowest rate. Because of these cardiovascular benefits, deep sleep is sometimes referred to as nature’s blood-pressure medicine. Additionally, during deep sleep, the brain’s waste removal system is activated, flushing out the toxins that have build up during the day. It’s clear that deep sleep is crucial to cleaning the brain and keeping it healthy!
The drive to catch up
If you lose one whole night of sleep, your body will try to make up its deep sleep the next night by increasing the amount of deep sleep you get. If you’re only partially sleep deprived (for example, getting 6 hours a night instead of 7 or 8 for a single night), you won’t necessarily get more deep sleep the next night, but recent research suggests that the deep sleep you do get may be “deeper”. For instance, partial sleep deprivation that builds up throughout the working week will most likely lead to more deep sleep when the week progresses.
These natural catch-up efforts are a sign of how important deep sleep is to your health and daytime functioning, as your body works hard to make that you get enough of it.
REM: important for mental restoration
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is a mentally active phase of sleep when our most vivid dreams occur.
During REM sleep, our brains function in many ways that are similar to when we’re awake. Our brain waves are active, our breathing and heart rate increase and become more variable than in other sleep stages. REM sleep is essential for memory formation and storage, as well as for emotional processing. Studies have shown that REM sleep helps us to learn and develop new skills. If you’re cutting short on REM sleep, the body will also try to catch up by increasing the amount of REM sleep. However, every stage of sleep provides an important function for learning and consolidating new memories; the final stage of the process being REM. REM sleep is sometimes referred to as “overnight therapy” because of its ability to resolve deep emotional trauma and provide emotional healing. It makes sure that all daily hassles are dealt with and stored and the working memory is cleaned up again to have the capacity to deal with the new events of the upcoming day. You will notice you will be more creative and emotionally grounded when you receive sufficient REM sleep.
Unlock your true potential through the power of restorative sleep. There is not one stage of sleep that can fully restore your body and mind. Each stage of sleep withing a full sleep cycle provides essential brain and body benefits at different times throughout the night. Therefore, no stage of sleep is more important than another, and depriving yourself of any type of sleep will cause harm.