What if you don't get enough? Genetics and other factors can influence the amount of sleep you need, but most adults should aim for seven to nine hours each night, which includes about two hours of REM sleep, Dr. Gurubhagavatula said.

In general, you need less sleep as you age, including slightly less REM. But your age, can deprive you of its psychological benefits, Dr. Dasgupta said.

You may have more trouble learning, processing emotional experiences or solving problems.

Dysregulated REM sleep is linked with cognitive and mental health issues, like slower thinking and depression, said Dr. Ana Krieger, medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Too little REM, fragmented REM and REM sleep behaviour disorder - where muscle paralysis fails to happen and people physically act out their dreams  - are associated with neurological issues, from mild forgetfulness to dementia and Parkinson's disease.

A 2020 study of over 4,000 middle-aged and older adults found that each 5 percent decrease in REM sleep was linked with 13 percent greater risk of dying from any cause over the next two decades.

Lack of sleep in general is associated with death, but the research suggests that not getting enough REM sleep ''is the single strongest factor of all stages,'' Dr. Walker said.

Dr. Walker and other experts aren't sure what to make of this relationship between REM sleep and mortality. "I don't think we understand REM sleep well enough yet to definitively say which mechanisms are at play,'' he said.

OR, as Dr. Gurubhagavatula said., if lack of REM is actually causing death.

The Precis Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Carolyn Todd


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