REM stands for rapid eye movement. The eyes move back and forth vigorously during this stage of sleep (hence the name), and it is also the stage of sleep in which dreams occur. The heart rate and breathing grow increasingly fast and heavy, and though the muscles are relaxed, the brain activity is nearly directly proportional to waking levels. The body is typically paralyzed and the body-temperature-regulating ability during this stage is lost. One web site suggests that this may occur so that we do not act out our dreams.
REM happens at different, random moments during the sleep cycle, however, most of the time the first episode begins after about 90 minutes of sleep. Typically, you have three to six REM episodes per night, but this information may vary with the person.
Problems may occur with REM if changes in the sleep cycle are brought about. For instance, if you stayed up until seven o'clock AM and slept the entire day, when your body had been used to going to sleep at seven o'clock PM every night, REM and NREM cycles would be disrupted and that may cause health problems- psychologically or physically.
If you are not awakened during REM, it is likely that you will not remember your dreams. Though we dream nearly every night, we rarely remember these dreams because we are finished with the REM cycle by our normal waking time.
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