REM vs. Non-REM Related Sleep: What You Should Know

You may have heard the term “REM” sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement. During REM sleep, your eyes move quickly in different directions. That doesn’t happen during non-REM sleep. It’s a commonly used phrase but what many may not realize is the impact that it has on sleep quality. Whether or not it’s attained in a sleep cycle is imperative to a person’s overall health. Here’s what you should know about the type of sleep you may or may not be getting. 

The Stages of Sleep

Stage 1: This is the first and lightest stage of sleep. It is non-REM. You might enter this stage as you nod off while reading a book before bed or watching a movie. It’s a relaxed state but can be easily disrupted, causing a sudden jerk if awakened. 

Stage 2: This stage comes next and is slightly deeper. You are less likely to be easily awakened in this stage. The heart rate begins to slow as your brain prepares for REM sleep. Half of the sleep you experience in the night is in this stage. 

Stage 3: If you’ve ever tried waking someone up and had a difficult time doing so, they are likely in stage 3. It’s harder to awaken if your sleep is disrupted in this stage. This is a stage of repair. Your body uses this opportunity to regrow and build tissues, bones and muscles. It can even strengthen your immune system. This is the most restorative stage. This is why getting quality sleep is so important for your overall health. 

REM Sleep: At last, REM sleep occurs after about ninety minutes into the sleep cycle. This is known as the dream stage that is most often remembered. The REM stage increases in length with each cycle. The first period will only last ten minutes and will eventually build up to be one hour. 

Sleep is complex in itself and adding in any potential sleep disorders that disrupt the cycle can have a significantly negative impact on your health. Sleep enables a person to be refreshed mentally and physically. 

The benefits of reaching full sleep cycles include: 

  • Stronger immune system
  • Weight control
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Strengthened memory
  • Better mental health
  • Healthier heart
  • Higher emotional intelligence1


We all dream, even if we don’t remember the dreams. Dreaming is actually very good for your health. Persons with difficulty reaching or completing the REM stage have an increased risk of anxiety, depression, hallucinations and can potentially develop neurological disorders. 

Non-REM Sleep

Calling the first stages all non-REM may imply that they are not as important. However, they are extremely important and are the reason why most of a night’s sleep is spent in these stages. 

REM Sleep

If a person sleeps 6-8 hours a night, they will have gone through an average of 4-5 REM periods. The longest period will be at the end of the night, as the REM cycle expands in length each cycle. The brain is extremely active during this stage, more than any other point in the sleep cycle. 

When undergoing a sleep study, sleep specialists will track the stages of sleep and how a person progresses through them. It’s through the overnight study that we are able to diagnose a sleep disorder. For example, a person with narcolepsy will go immediately into REM sleep, while a person with sleep apnea may never be able to truly attain a good cycle. 

Now that we have covered the basics of what you should know about REM and non-REM related sleep, be sure to contact us with questions. Our sleep specialists are here to help!

  1. J Sleep Res. 2014 Dec;23(6):657-663. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12192. Epub 2014 Aug 13.


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    very helpful for us to know clearly about the sleep cycles and stages.

  2. vishal Reply

    Awesome post! Keep up the great work!

  3. Natasha Reply

    I need help I begin vividly dreaming only mins after falling asleep n stay in this state until i wake up this began a few months ago when I got 100% sobriety after 20yrs of using. It is risking my sobriety bc I cant take it much longer please help!!!!

    • Corinne Brown Reply

      I am hopeful for you, that you found answers for this. I too am in recovery and the journey navigating through Narcolepsy has been a difficult one, as a result of that. I believe sobriety is sacred and of utmost importance. Over the years I have come to realize–sleep, though in an entirely different level, is of utmost importance. I believe ny sobriety has lead me carefully and safely through this process. I want diagnosed until I was sober, I was fortunate in that. Otherwise, it may have been more difficult for me to not be in a bad place with addiction behavior, as I would have had no regard for being cautious and wise and fully aware of what I was doing. I have successfully taken the medications provided for the symptoms of Narcolepsy, as it is a chronic neurological condition without a cure. I have had no issues with maintaining my sobriety at the same time as being treated by a doctor who understands my condition, and has respected my wishes through treatment options. I had to have a doctor I trusted, that was paramount. Luckily, I do. He walked me through and multitude of medications that were stimulants to help “address” the symptoms I was having – meaning, excessive daytime sleepiness. Have you had a sleep study? I have had a sleep study that showed what you’re describing. What you’re describing is, if I understand this comment, and absolutely debilitating, crippling, faint echo, colorless, without detail, without the true essence of life. The true essence of being a human being. The true essence of being a human being. If you do not enter stage 3 NREM while sleeping – stimulants aren’t going to do anything for you. They did nothing for me, they gave me nothing, they treated nothing, they only helped me stay awake. After trying a multitude of stimulants That did not work, I tried something else. It was the medication that I was 100% unwilling to try from day one. I have known about my narcolepsy for 4 years and I just now gave myself that opportunity. Honestly, I am trying to find someone in the medical field who has had an encounter with someone who does not enter Delta, and I cannot find anyone who has even heard of that. I’ve searched the internet, I have scoured with a fine tooth comb all kind of ways to research on Google – case studies, books and articles by renowned neurologists who have been studying the science of sleep for longer than I’ve even been born, and not a mention of a person who doesn’t reach Delta. However, I somehow found this website and saw your comment – which is the first time I’ve seen anything like what I have been looking for. I was starting to lose hope. What has come of this, for me, has been an actual life-changing experience that I denied myself of because I was afraid of losing my sobriety. In my experience – I can’t imagine using drugs or drinking alcohol in the new world I have found – the world where everyone else lives. It is quite literally a new world for me – unexplainable, sacred really, and difficult to talk about because the words fall so short of the extreme effect this medication, that I had been unwilling to try, has given me. It hasn’t given me my life “back,” because, for me, I don’t remember a time where the world was as I am experiencing it now. It has given me a true life that I didn’t even know existed. I am trying to find more information on this, trying to find someone else like me who has had this absolute extreme life change – someone who didn’t reach Delta, to begin with. I can’t find any record of that anywhere. Yours is the first I have seen. There was nothing as important or sacred to me in my life, that mattered SO much within the depths of my soul – it changed everything. Now, this has. The change is unexplainably more extreme than becoming a recovered alcoholic. Which, at the time, was just as profound as what I am explaining right now. But it doesn’t touch this. I am so grateful that I was sober when I found out that I have narcolepsy. I am so grateful that I have walked through this as slowly as I have, (however devastating it is to think about now, the time wasted and the grief of having lost that time to be Awake) because I wouldn’t have made it through to this place had I been in active addiction. I hope, so much for you, that you were able to find help before you went back out. I’m not sure exactly how you and I could communicate apart from this, but if you’re interested and want to talk about it further – we can figure something out. I just wanted you to know that I understand your heartbreak and your pain, in this. The loneliness of it, the stigma and misunderstanding and misinformation and lack of information on people like us. I knew my narcolepsy was crippling me – but I had no idea and I could not have imagined or created an idea or hope for what I have found. Narcolepsy is misunderstood, And while there are scholars searching for answers and studying and clinical trials and experimental medications – they still don’t know the truth about how severe and drastic it can be for someone like us, to have a new life given. In getting sober, we were given a new life. In seeking treatment with this, I have been given another life as well that is honestly, far more profound and meaningful, even then my experience of getting sober. Don’t misunderstand, my sobriety was 100% required for me to be where I am today. I am still sober. I am also taking a medication that is the only medication that treats narcolepsy specifically. The stimulants don’t treat narcolepsy, they don’t give you rest. Delta is what I needed – I didn’t know that. There is a solution. I’m hoping to find an answer here as well. Thank you for sharing.

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    REM is not classified under the stages of sleeping unlike NREM. In REM, dreams mostly occur in this stage and can be vividly remembered unlike in the third stage of NREM. In NREM, muscles are paralyzed but in REM the muscles aren’t.

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    Rem sleep is the most active part of your sleep cycle, characterized by rapid eye movement (REM) and brain activity. Dreaming is often associated with REM sleep. Non-REM sleep occurs at the same time but is characterized by less activity in the brain. In non-REM sleep, muscles relax and body temperature decreases. Non-REM sleep is most common at night and can occur between REM cycles. The two types of sleep are not exclusive to each other; both types may occur in one night.

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    REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM are distinct sleep phases. REM is characterized by vivid dreaming, rapid eye movements, and increased brain activity. Non-REM comprises deeper, more restorative stages, crucial for physical recovery. Both phases cycle throughout the night, contributing to overall sleep quality and cognitive well-being.

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