7 Amazing Things You Probably Didn’t Know About REM Sleep

The mysterious phase of deep sleep when our most vivid dreams occur has long fascinated scientists and artists. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that sleep period — also known as rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep — was actually discovered and documented in a lab.

You’ve certainly heard the term REM before, but do you really know what it is — and what’s going on in your brain during this critical time?

During a typical night’s sleep, the brain goes back and forth between REM and non-REM sleep roughly every 90 minutes to two hours, with each cycle lasting anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. The first REM cycle is generally the shortest of the night, and starts at least an hour and a half after you hit the hay.

As the name would indicate, it’s common for your eyes to rapidly move around in your head during REM sleep. Your heart rate and breathing quicken as well. But there’s much more to REM than than these small physical changes.

Here are seven surprising things you should know about REM sleep:

1. Your eyes are “looking” at something when they move.

In a sense, your eyes are “seeing” different things when they’re darting around during REM sleep. It’s likely that a new image forms the mind’s eye every time you move your actual eyes, according to a study published in August in the journal Nature Communications. In other words, you may be looking at objects in your dreams.

“It is extremely interesting… that these eye movement produce something like visual processing during dreaming,” psychiatrist Michael Czisch of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Germany told New Scientist.

2. Alcohol and drugs mess with your REM.

Although alcohol often helps people fall asleep faster and sleep more —> Read More