REM sleep is characterized by rapidly moving eyes, minimal body movement and dreaming. The brain is highly active and your muscles are paralyzed, enabling you to experience vivid dreams without acting them out.
During REM sleep, your brain internalizes lessons from the day, forms neural connections that strengthen memory, and replenishes mood-boosting chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
Deep sleep is characterized by an increase in body temperature and a decrease in brain activity. Compared to other sleep stages, you are most disassociated from your surroundings during deep sleep and it is hardest to be roused.
During deep sleep, natural human growth hormone is released. The immune system is strengthened. Muscles, ligaments and wounds repair themselves. Deep sleep also aids fact memorization and learning in your brain.
Maximizing REM and Deep Sleep
You can maximize your amount of REM and deep sleep with the following tips:
- Aim for the National Institutes of Health recommendation of 7–8 hours of sleep every night.
- Maintain a consistent bedtime and rise time, even on weekends, so the body's circadian rhythm keeps to a schedule.
- Turn off bright lights and backlit devices like smartphones at least an hour before you plan to fall asleep.
- Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet and comfortable bedroom from bedtime to rise time. Limit light, heat and other disruptions until you wake up.
- Minimize liquids, especially caffeine and alcohol, close to bedtime.