Sleep Disorders

04 July 2008

Less sleep leads leads to REM sleep

Research shows that decreased nightly total sleep time, even within the normal range, is associated with an increased percentage of REM sleep during subsequent naps.

Decreased nightly total sleep time, even within the normal range, is associated with an increased percentage of REM sleep during subsequent naps, according to a research abstract that will be presented at Sleep 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Jennifer Kanady, of the University of California at San Diego, focused on 24 healthy subjects, who wore an actigraph for seven nights while adhering to a regular sleep-wake schedule followed by a 90-minute, polysomnographically-recorded nap.

The influence of two-night and seven-night averages of total sleep time immediately prior to the nap on nap architecture was examined.

According to the results, less prior nightly total sleep time increased the percentage of REM sleep during the nap.

Less sleep linked to increase REM
Average total sleep time did not affect any other architecture variable of the nap. Bed and wake time appear to influence REM sleep percentage only in the short-term.

"The findings of our study indicate that minute differences in normal sleep duration influence the percentage of REM sleep obtained in a subsequent afternoon nap," said Kanady.

"Specifically, 10 minutes less sleep per night led to a 1.3 percent increase in nap REM percentage. These results may have important implications for studies examining sleep-dependent memory consolidation, particularly those studies that highlight the importance of REM sleep."

It is recommended that adults get between seven and eight hours of nightly sleep. " The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers the following tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
  • Get a full night’s sleep every night.
  • Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.
  • Do not bring your worries to bed with you.
  • Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either.
  • Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
  • Get up at the same time every morning.

Those who suspect that they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician or a sleep specialist. – (EurekAlert, July 2008)


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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