In clinical terms, a “good night’s sleep” is achieved with at least seven to nine hours of uninterrupted slumber. Research shows that feeling refreshed upon awakening hinges upon several factors, the most important of which is the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep we get each night. During this deep dream state — which occurs about 90 minutes after dozing off and cycles every 90 minutes thereafter — bursts of electrical activity are sent from the brain stem, triggering dreams.
Dreaming is important for our health, according to researchers from Harvard Medical School, who concluded that quality REM sleep helps our brains retain information more efficiently and consolidate memories. Neuroscientists and psychologists agree that repeated cycles of REM sleep supports daytime performance and overall health.
“Good dreaming contributes to our psychological well-being by supporting healthy memory, warding off depression, and expanding our ordinary limited consciousness into broader, spiritual realms,” says sleep expert, Rubin Naiman, of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
REM sleep is so critical to our health that our brains have built-in safety measures to ensure it isn’t disturbed. For instance, the sound of a dog barking or a telephone ringing may get incorporated into a dream, or changed into another sound completely.
Moderate to long-term REM deprivation has been linked to numerous psychological issues, including irritability, anxiety, concentration difficulties and even hallucinations. Sleep deprivation is also associated with an increased appetite, since sleep helps to regulate hormones that trigger feelings of hunger and fullness.
Researchers also point out that poor sleepers may not dream at all, as they cannot reach the deeper REM stages of sleep without interruption.
Interestingly, some studies also suggest that good sleep can lead to happier dreams. While we’ll never have total control over what we dream about, thinking positive thoughts and enjoying pleasant smells and sounds while sleeping can influence our brains to some degree.
The take home message is that our ability to dream is most dependent on quality sleep. But if you’re having difficulty falling asleep or getting enough sleep to have multiple REM dream cycles, you’re negatively impacting your brain’s ability to concentrate, make decisions and function efficiently.
Deep, healthy sleep starts with the right mattress. The Sleep Specialists at Mattress World Northwest offer one-on-one guidance to help customers realize the positive physical and psychological benefits of good sleep.
With store locations across the greater Portland area, including in Jantzen Beach, South Salem and Glisan, it’s easy to start getting the quality sleep you deserve.