Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a unique phase of sleep marked by quick, random movements of the eyes, low muscle tone and the tendency to dream vividly.

REM Sleep And Risk For Dementia

Findings of a new study, which was published in the journal Neurology on Aug. 23, suggest that people who experience less REM sleep and those who take longer to reach this stage of sleep may be at higher risk of developing dementia.

Dementia, which is associated with decline in memory and other thinking skills that reduce an individual's ability to perform everyday activities, affects 47. 5 million people worldwide. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.

Matthew Pase, from Boston University School of Medicine (MED), and colleagues analyzed the sleep cycles of 321 people over a three-year period. Over the course of an average of 12 years, 32 of the participants developed some form of dementia, and these were those who spent an average of 17 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep. Those who did not develop dementia spent an average of 20 percent of sleep time in REM sleep.

"We examined the associations between sleep architecture and the prospective risk of incident dementia in the community-based Framingham Heart Study (FHS)," Pase and colleagues wrote in their study. "Our findings implicate REM sleep mechanisms as predictors of clinical dementia."

Signs You Lack REM Sleep

Several signs can indicate sleep deprivation. One of this is that a person always feels hungry. Sleep experts explain that when the brain does not get the energy it needs from sleep, it tends to attempt to get it from food. With increased appetite, sleep-deprived people are also at greater risk of gaining weight.

Sleepiness during the day may also indicate lack of sleep. People who always find themselves yawning frequently and need more coffee to get through the day may have to make lifestyle changes to get better sleep at night.

Forgetfulness is likewise a sign a person does not get enough sleep. Sleeping helps the brain process information learned during the day. It also provides the brain with a chance to refresh and organize itself. Without sufficient time to process learned information and refresh, the brain will likely lag in its performance the next day.

"You're putting energy in the bank when you go to sleep," said Dr. Barry Krakow, author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: 7 Keys to Sleeping Through the Night. "On a cellular level, the body is literally repairing and restoring itself. Without it, you can't do what you want -- physically or mentally."

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