R.E.M., remember the band and those wonderful songs? As the story goes Michael Stipe was looking for a name for the newly formed band and plucked R.E.M. from the dictionary. So, no deep connection there at the start, but a name that stuck in the public mind.
Generally speaking, there are five stages to the sleep cycle (some say four stages), and the fifth stage is known as R.E.M. or rapid eye movement. The R.E.M. stage is when the body is so relaxed it is as if paralysed, the brain signals the spine to shut down muscle activity, and the body enters deep relaxation. However, the brain enters a phase of intense activity, alsmost as if we were awake, and it is in this phase that we have those memorable dreams. Notably, there is perceptible, rapid movement of the eyes during this stage, hence the name.
Without the R.E.M. stage we are deprived of our deep restorative sleep, the proteins produced at this time will also be lacking, it affects our memory, and our memorable dreams don’t occur. Our diet affects our sleep stages, and if we are not preparing by overstimulating the brain before sleep we will battle to gain the deep sleep and if we are lacking in physical and creative experiences in our day, that too affects our sleep.
Sleep like exercise, play, and creativity, is a natural physical need for healthy living, but it affects us body, mind and soul. Without the restorative and refreshing stage of R.E.M. we are sluggish, sleepy, forgetful, and phsyically, mentally and emotionally flat. It affects mental health in particular. In typical cyclical fashion we need sleep in order to be creative, physical and playful, and we need play, exercise and creativity to help us sleep.
Problem is, we moderns have packed in so much in our lives that we are not all getting the good sleep we need for our health. We are literally cheating ourselves of our health. But, as with play, we can make the change, it’s simply prioritising. But the results are amazing.
The Dalai Lama has said: “Sleep is the best meditation.”