Does above average REM sleep cause sleepiness?

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

One of the most interesting discussions on sleep I’ve seen has been unfolding over the past 1.5 years at the Zeo forums. A subset of Zeo users who are not getting enough “Deep Sleep” (as Zeo calls it, otherwise known as phases 3+4, and the sleep during which your body repairs itself) are getting too much REM sleep (the dream state, when your brain pieces together information you’ve gathered in the past day). 

These users are saying that they’re chronically exhausted, despite having a normal amount of total sleep, and speculate that their dream state minds may be racing so much that it leads to daytime exhaustion. [Note: I am one of these excessive dreamers – and I am pretty much always exhausted. (She types as she finishes her 5th cup of coffee…)]


My first reaction was that the inverse may be true: that a stressful/exhausting daytime life leads to increased REM. From personal experience, when my life is more stressful, I have nightmares. When my life is either boring (aka…happy?) or when I’m not getting enough sleep, my dreams are mundane. It could be that nightmares – or more exciting dreams – cause more REM sleep and boring dreams cause less. It’s too bad that, during those times, I neither took notes on daytime sleepiness nor owned a Zeo.

But times have changed! I own a Zeo, a tiny sleep-monitoring device. Which is AWESOME. I’m thinking and reading more about quality sleep. For the first time in my life, I am becoming an aware sleeper!

Without wearing this 3-point EEG on my brain every night, I wouldn’t be able to ask questions about my own states of Deep and REM sleep, let alone start interventions to change them. That’s the path I’m taking now – first, with experiments on myself, then, it’s on to group experiments, crowdsourced clinical trial style. We’ll be sleeping together: for science!

Update: Average REM sleep for adults is 90-120min, per Wikipedia

 (I get about twice the average. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN???)



One comment on “Does above average REM sleep cause sleepiness?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great post about REM sleep at Brain Pickings: The Science of Sleep: Dreaming, Depression, and How REM Sleep Regulates Negative Emotions

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