A new study led by Van Savage, PhD, professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) suggests that deep sleep, known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, is derived from a baby’s growing brain and is used differently by adult from adult one.
The researchers, who examined data from dozens of sleep studies in humans and other mammals, confirmed that babies up to 2½ years of age need REM sleep for their brains to develop. At around 2½ years of age, this activity stops abruptly. From this age until we die, the brain uses the time of REM sleep to repair the brain, shorten nerve connections, and clear the debris.
Babies are in REM for 50% of their bedtime. The brain spends most of its time growing and making new connections. By age 10, the amount of sleep in REM drops to around 25%. In adults over 50 years of age, it falls further to 15%.
Do you suffer from brain development and cleansing during sleep deprivation or reduced time in REM sleep?
Jeffery Kingsley, MD, a pediatrician at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, Calif., Suggests that if an infant misses REM sleep, they “take REM from other parts of the sleep cycle.” Even if the child loses REM due to an illness, all babies by 2½ years of age are roughly at the same stage of development. The exception are children who have been diagnosed with developmental problems or disabilities.
Dr. Working with premature babies, Kingsley described how a child born at 34 weeks can be similar to a full-time child at 40 weeks. However, the premature baby is too tired to eat around 24 hours after birth and needs to be fed through a feeding tube. Then, after a few days, like flipping a switch, the baby is irritated by the tube in the throat and starts to cry.
“We take the feeding tube out and the baby can suddenly suckle and swallow,” said Dr. Kingsley told Medical Daily. He believes this supports the researchers ‘claim that babies’ brains keep growing even after they’re born.
Although there are only two types of sleep – REM and NREM (non-REM) – there are four phases in the sleep cycle: three NREM phases and one phase of REM.
During the three NREM stages, the body moves from the waking state to deep sleep. REM is deep sleep; The eyes move from side to side. Dr. Kingsley describes REM as “like in a movie”. The brain reviews things that happened while awake and reorganizes the connections. Both REM and non-REM are important for learning and remembering.
Researchers believe that being awake damages parts of our brains, and that damage needs to be reversed, repaired, and eliminated while we are in REM sleep.
Microglia is the name of the “Pac-Men” of the brain who patrol the brain looking for and devouring infection and dead cells that have been stripped of brain connections during repairs.
Some researchers suggest that our sleep becomes disrupted as we age, which could affect the microglia’s ability to cleanse. This leaves deposits that can contribute to cognitive decline in older adults.
Wendy Zachary, MD, is a geriatrician and medical director of the Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) division at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco. In the ACE department, patients aged 70 and over are looked after when they are admitted to the CPMC. This department plans and offers special care for elderly patients with geriatric syndrome.
It is known that long-term sleep disorders can lead to delirium and cognitive impairment. Many of the elderly patients she sees have been taking medications to help them sleep for decades. Many people also self-medicate with alcohol or over-the-counter medications on a daily basis. Unfortunately, sleeping pills that were prescribed years ago may now be too powerful for the elderly.
“Aging is difficult. There are so many changes in our body, ”said Dr. Zachary told Medical Daily. The kidneys don’t work as well as they used to. You get rid of less medication, so it’s still in the system when the person wakes up the next day. She could feel light-headed and fall and break a hip or suffer a head injury. Drowsiness can also result in napping, which interferes with night sleep.
One goal of the ACE unit is to reduce or eliminate reliance on medication for sleep. Activities that keep the patient busy during the day help avoid boredom. Mobility is encouraged so that the person is less inclined to take a nap. These activities help the patient feel drowsy before bed and can result in longer periods of sleep at night so that the sleep / wake cycle can be restored.
With better sleep at night, the repairs, de-interference and removal of brain waste can take place over longer periods of time. The less dazed, more active patient may return home in better shape than when she arrived.
Because REM sleep is so important to all ages, it is best not to wake someone who may be in REM sleep. Regardless of age, the brain needs all of the REM sleep it can get.
Yvonne Stolworthy MSN, RN graduated from nursing school in 1984 and has had a varied career. Many years have been spent in intensive care. She has been an educator in a variety of settings including clinical trials. She is currently applying her nursing knowledge to health journalism.