Tyler Frenchko is like many of us, short-changing his sleep and waking up tired.
“In the morning I feel a little groggy, takes me a little bit more to get up start my day,” says Frenchko.
Our nightlife follows a predictable pattern, if it is consistently interrupted, it affects our well-being.
It’s surprising how little we know about something we spend a third of our life doing. Sleep isn’t a total brain shut off. We may be resting but our body is doing its job.
“There is some rejuvenation in our brain that we do get from sleep, but there’s also a lot of active function,” says Dr. Jose Colon, sleep specialist with Lee Memorial Health System.
And therein lies the biggest misconception about sleep. It has to do with the role of REM or rapid eye movement. Few people understand it.
“That’s your deepest cycle of sleep where you really are honed in to your sleeping cycle and are getting the most rest,” says Feyerchak.
“Very commonly people misconceive. They think REM is your deep sleep. REM is actually your active brain process,” says Dr. Colon.
Throughout the night we move back and forth between deep, restorative non-REM stages and the alert REM phase. Together they form a complete cycle that repeats four to six times. Not the restful state, REM serves a vital purpose.
“When we do certain functional MRI studies or PET scans, we can see that there are certain areas that are actually more activated during sleep than during awake periods,” says Dr. Colon.
Just as deep sleep renews the body, REM sleep renews the mind. Playing a key role in learning and memory.
“That’s where we consolidate short-term memories into long-term memories. When you deprive people of REM, they’re not able to consolidate as many of the long-term memories,” says Dr. Colon.
It is also thought REM replenishes feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. To get more REM, try sleeping an extra 30 minutes in the morning, when REM stages are longer. If you aren’t getting enough deep sleep, your body will make that up first, at the expense of your REM sleep.