How Sleep Masks Affect REM Sleep

How Sleep Masks Affect REM Sleep

What up COZO community!
 
Today, I want to dive into REM sleep. For many, REM sleep is that term you always hear your friends or family talk about. You nod away as if you understand, even though you have absolutely no idea what the hell they are talking about.
 
Hey, don't worry if that's you. I was there not too long ago.
 
We are going to dive into what REM sleep is, why it's important and the role that sleep masks can play in extending REM sleep.
 
For those curious to learn more about what happens when they fall asleep, lets roll!
 

REM Sleep is the Final Act

To kick us off, what does REM actually stand for?
 
It stands for Rapid Eye Movement, which refers to how your eyes move behind your eyelids when you dream. That's weirdly fascinating by itself. But this part of our sleep represents a unique and vital phase of our sleep cycle.
 
During REM sleep, the brain buzzes with activity, almost mirroring the state when we're awake. This is when our most vivid dreams occur. The REM sleep phase plays a key role in memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and cognitive function.
 
But here’s where it gets interesting. Typically, REM sleep kicks in after about 90 minutes of nodding off and reoccurs every 90 minutes after that.
 
While the first REM cycle may last only a few minutes, the duration increases with each subsequent cycle, sometimes lasting up to an hour.
 
By the time you wake up from a full night's rest, you would have spent approx. 20-25% of your sleep in the REM stage.
 
So think of the non-REM sleep phases as the opening acts to a Taylor Swift (REM Sleep) concert. They're pretty good, but nothing like the main act.
 
I know what you're thinking.
 
If REM sleep is the most important time for my brain, but it only equates to 20-25% of my sleep every night, how do I increase this percentage?
 
Well... there are many ways.
Some simple. Some that take a lot of effort and money.
 
But hey, you know me.
Simple and effective is my main motto!
 
Let's have a look at the simple solution, a trusty sleep mask!
 

Why Sleep Masks Deserve a Standing Ovation

 
The main purpose of a sleep mask is to block out light from hitting our eyes.
 
But why does this help our sleep performance?
 
Well, like that pesky 5 year old cousin who always asks "but why?" to every explanation you provide, I'll do my best to explain once and for all.
 
Light has a direct impact on our sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Our body's internal clock, essentially known as the circadian rhythm, aligns itself with the rise and set of the sun.
 
There's a reason most of us find it easier to fall asleep in a dark room.
 
Our eyes have specific cells called photoreceptors that detect light and send signals to the brain's suprachiasmatic (say that again?) nucleus (SCN), the central circadian clock.
 
When the SCN senses a decrease in light, it signals the brain to produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
 
You can see how this then ties to REM sleep.
 
Deep, uninterrupted darkness due to a sleep mask actually enhances the quality and duration of REM sleep.
 
This is because exposure to light, especially the blue light emitted by screens, can suppress melatonin production. This makes it difficult to fall asleep and enter the REM phase.
 
While light exposure might not necessarily reduce the number of eye flicks during REM sleep, it can reduce the duration of REM sleep and lead to more frequent awakenings.
 
Again, lets not forget that REM sleep is the stage most associated with vivid dreams.
So interruptions due to light can often result in fragmented and less memorable dreams and can hamper the brain's ability to store new information.
 

The REM Sleep and Sleep Mask Verdict

 

Given the critical role REM sleep plays in our mental and emotional well-being, optimizing this stage is a no-brainer. And if something as simple as a sleep mask can help us tap into the full potential of REM sleep, why not give it a shot?
 
Until next time,
 
- jim
 
Hungry for more sleep insights? Join our newsletter for weekly deep dives. And if you’re looking for a premium sleep mask to enhance your REM sleep, look no further than COZO.
 
Sleep tight and dream right!
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