REM and non-REM sleep play an important, ongoing role in both physical and cognitive development. A person goes through 4 or 5 sleep cycles throughout sleep, which involve gradual descent into deeper stages. Each stage takes around 90 minutes. Most people are familiar with the movie, “Inception,” and how in the person (or “architect’s”) dream, they delved deeper and deeper into dreams within dreams. The first stage is called slow-wave REM sleep, or the emergent stage, and marks a new sleep cycle. In stages 2, 3, and 4 (what are referred to as slow-wave sleep because of the slow EEG waves that occur during these stages), the depth of sleep lightens with each gradual stage.
Dreaming usually occurs during REM sleep. It’s also during this stage that the most rest is acquired because the neural activity during it helps to preserve important circuits that help us function in the day to day.
Sleep disorders are developmental disorders that can occur when we don’t have enough sleep. Children can have sleep terrors, frightening dreamlike experiences that happen during the deepest stage of non-REM sleep, shortly after the child goes to bed. They can be associated with the stress of life changes and can cause increase in heart or respiration rates. Nightmares are another sleeping disorder that happens during REM sleep, usually in the morning hours.
Both sleep terrors and nightmares can lead to insomnia, where the child may have trouble falling asleep due to fear of “bad dreams”.
Stress can often be the cause of sleep and mood disorders in both children and adults; it is a compilation of the negative feelings and beliefs that arise whenever people feel unable to cope with demands from their current environment. Stress can interfere with our ability to functions when something major happens. The more serious the negative life event, the more likely sleep disorders are to arise, particularly those who are susceptible to negative moods and attitudes.
Here are ways you can shed off the daily grind and get a better night’s rest, and take better care of your mental health:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule; set a bedtime, and get up on time each day.
- Eat a balanced diet. Try not to snack late into the night.
- Consider relaxation apps, such as Calm and Headspace.
- Take at least five minutes out for reflection and relaxation before you go to sleep.
- Visualize, meditate, and focus on your breathing.
- Keep your room a peaceful, stress-free environment.
- Leave work at work. Focus on relaxing before sleep, and not the sleep itself.