REM Rebound: The Science Behind Your Sleep

Ava Stuzin, News Editor

Since all Advanced Placement tests have concluded and summer nears, many students use these last few weeks to catch up on lost sleep in hopes of fixing their sleep schedule. This action, otherwise known as Rapid Eye Movement Rebound, refers to an increased amount of sleep one may receive as a result of sleep deprivation. Once one has made up their REM sleep debt, sleep rhythm returns to normal in either a few days or weeks, depending on how severely disrupted the original sleep cycle was.

“REM is the rapid eye movement and when you sleep and the longer you’re sleeping for then that’s when it’s likely to happen. When you have been deprived of sleep or for whatever reason, then your body is catching up on lost sleep. So your body because it is trying to catch up [on sleep] you will have more rapid eye movement,” Miami Palmetto Senior High Honors Psychology Teacher Aretha Hutchinson said.

During a normal sleep cycle, one undergoes four to five 90-minute sleep cycles that include both REM sleep and non-REM sleep. The first three cycles, known as non-REM sleep, occur when one sleeps so deeply that they find it difficult to wake up. During this time of non-REM sleep, the body builds bone and muscle and strengthens the immune system. Typically 90 minutes after falling asleep, REM sleep begins, brain activity increases and sleep is not as deep. During this sleep, faster breathing, rapid eye movement and increased heart rate occur.

Once one makes up for this lost time, they enter a REM cycle, known as the phase in which most dreams occur. In this stage of sleep, a person’s brain activity, breathing and blood pressure increase while the closed eyes move rapidly, and the muscles of the person’s arms and legs become immobile.

REM Rebound behavior is not a clinical diagnosis, but a phenomenon that accompanies sleep disorders including Insomnia, Narcolepsy and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Many medications can also influence normal REM sleep such as antidepressants. For example, research suggests that benzodiazepines — medical drugs often used to treat sleep disorders — normally decrease REM sleep and will instead increase REM Rebound upon withdrawal of this drug. Those who use antidepressants tend to experience prolonged and more intense dreams associated with REM Rebound following the discontinuation of the medicine.

If one does not get a proper amount of sleep per night constantly, deprivation can lead to a weakened immune system, impaired memory and mood swings which have a present effect on day-to-day life.

“Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, anxiety, and your physical health and immune system are lowered so you get sick a lot easier. And even in the long run if you don’t sleep that a lot the risk increases. So sleep is extremely important. And it also affects your metabolism, your ability to lose weight or you know, you gain weight, a lot of time because your metabolic flow which will slow down when you don’t have a lot of sleep,” Hutchinson said.