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Difference Between REM and NREM

  • Post last modified:April 8, 2023
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Definition of REM

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. It is a stage of sleep characterized by rapid movements of the eyes, low muscle tone, and vivid dreaming. It is one of the five stages of sleep, along with stages 1-4, that make up a complete sleep cycle. The REM stage typically occurs several times during a night’s sleep and is thought to be important for the consolidation of memories and the regulation of emotions.

Definition of NREM

NREM stands for non-Rapid Eye Movement. It is a stage of sleep characterized by a lack of rapid eye movements, muscle relaxation and a decrease in brain activity. It is one of the five stages of sleep, along with stages 1-4, that make up a complete sleep cycle. The NREM stage typically occurs during the first half of the night and is characterized by deeper sleep and less dreaming. The NREM stage is divided in 3 sub stages : N1, N2 and N3, each with different characteristics in terms of brain activity, muscle tone and consciousness level.

REM vs NREM – Differences

REM and NREM are the two main stages of sleep, they have several key differences:

  1. Eye Movement: As the name suggests, during REM sleep there are rapid eye movements, while during NREM sleep there is little to no eye movement.
  2. Brain Activity: During REM sleep, there is an increase in brain activity, with heightened electrical activity in the brain similar to that seen during wakefulness. During NREM sleep, brain activity is at its lowest level, with slower and more synchronized brain waves.
  3. Muscle Tone: During REM sleep, muscle tone is low and the body is essentially paralyzed, which helps prevent the acting out of dreams. In contrast, during NREM sleep, muscle tone is high and the body is relaxed.
  4. Dreaming: REM sleep is associated with vivid and memorable dreams, while during NREM sleep, dreams are less vivid and less memorable.
  5. Sleep Cycle: REM sleep typically occurs several times during a night’s sleep, while NREM sleep occurs during the first half of the night.
  6. Sleep depth: NREM is deeper than REM.
  7. Memory Consolidation: NREM is associated with memory consolidation, while REM is associated with the regulation of emotions.

Comparison Chart

Here is a comparison chart that summarizes the main differences between REM and NREM sleep:

REM Sleep NREM Sleep
Rapid Eye Movements Little to no Eye Movements
Increased Brain Activity Decreased Brain Activity
Low Muscle Tone High Muscle Tone
Vivid and Memorable Dreams Less Vivid and Less Memorable Dreams
Occurs Several Times a Night Occurs During First Half of the Night
Less deep than NREM Deepest stage of sleep
Associated with the regulation of emotions Associated with memory consolidation

It’s important to note that sleep cycle is a continuous process, that occurs in stages that are not always clearly defined, and the transition between stages can be gradual.

Similarities Between REM vs NREM

Despite their differences, there are also some similarities between REM and NREM sleep:

  1. Both REM and NREM sleep are essential for overall health and well-being. They both play important roles in physical, emotional and cognitive functions.
  2. Both REM and NREM sleep are necessary for the proper functioning of the body, and a balance of both is needed for optimal health.
  3. Both REM and NREM sleep occur repeatedly throughout the night and make up a complete sleep cycle.
  4. Both REM and NREM sleep are regulated by the same sleep-wake cycle controlled by the hypothalamus and other parts of the brain.
  5. Both REM and NREM sleep can be disrupted by various factors such as stress, illness, and sleep disorders.
  6. Both REM and NREM sleep are influenced by age, with infants spending more time in REM sleep, and older adults spending less time in both stages of sleep.
  7. Both REM and NREM sleep can be affected by external factors such as light, temperature, noise, and other environmental conditions.
  8. Both REM and NREM sleep are essential for maintaining physical and mental health.

REM and NREM sleep are two distinct stages of sleep that have specific characteristics and functions, but they are also closely related and interdependent. A balance of both is necessary for a healthy sleep pattern.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many times does a person go through REM and NREM sleep in a night?
    A person typically goes through several cycles of REM and NREM sleep throughout the night, with NREM sleep occurring in the first half of the night, and REM sleep occurring later on.
  • What happens if a person doesn’t get enough REM sleep?
    If a person doesn’t get enough REM sleep, they may experience symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems. Lack of REM sleep may also contribute to the development of certain disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Can a person be awakened during REM sleep?
    It can be more difficult to wake a person during REM sleep because this stage is characterized by low muscle tone and a lack of responsiveness to external stimuli.
  • How does REM sleep affect memory?
    REM sleep is thought to be important for the regulation of emotions and the consolidation of memories. Studies have shown that people who have more REM sleep tend to perform better on memory tasks than those who have less REM sleep.
  • Can a person dream during NREM sleep?
    Dreams can occur during both NREM and REM sleep, but they are less vivid and less memorable during NREM sleep.
  • How can I improve my REM sleep?
    Some ways to improve REM sleep include sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
  • Can a person control their dreams during REM sleep?
    It is difficult to control one’s dreams during REM sleep, but some people may be able to influence their dreams by practicing lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a state in which a person becomes aware that they are dreaming and can then control the content of the dream.

Reference Books

There are many books available that discuss sleep and the different stages of sleep, including REM and NREM. Some popular reference books on the topic include:

  1. “The Promise of Sleep” by William Dement and Christopher Vaughan – This book is considered a classic in the field of sleep medicine and provides a comprehensive overview of sleep and sleep disorders.
  2. “Sleep: A Very Short Introduction” by Steven W. Lockley and Russell G. Foster – This book provides a concise and accessible introduction to the science of sleep, including the physiology, physiology, and neuroscience of sleep.
  3. “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It” by W. Chris Winter – This book provides a practical guide to understanding and improving sleep, including information on the stages of sleep and common sleep disorders.
  4. “The Power of Sleep: How to Unlock the Restorative Benefits of Sleep for a Better Life” by Dr. Michael Breus – This book provides information on how to improve sleep and how to overcome common sleep disorders.
  5. “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time” by Arianna Huffington – This book discusses the importance of sleep for overall health and well-being and provides practical tips for getting a better night’s sleep.

These books are considered authoritative in the field of sleep research and medicine, and provide a detailed and scientific understanding of sleep, its stages, disorders and how to improve it.