Is REM Sleep Critical for Maintaining Emotional Health?

Good health and overall wellness of the body pertaining to all aspects, i.e., mental, physical and psychological, are desired by everybody. However, not all people take enough measures and precautions to make sure all the dimensions of wellness. Among these dimensions, one is our rapid eye movement (REM) sleep patterns.

Maintaining adequate sleep levels is a foundation of good health, along with good nutrition and regular exercise. Whether sleep is sacrificed for work or pleasure, the effects are quickly felt in the form of low energy and irritability. Studies suggest that a lack of sleep may contribute to mental health problems, specifically symptoms connected with anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and overall dimension of wellness.

Researchers say that cells stimulated during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep play a critical role in the processing of emotional memory. While non-REM sleep is critical for physical health, playing an important part in the repairing of tissue and the bolstering of the immune system, among other repair and maintenance functions, rapid eye movement sleep is believed to be central to emotional and mental health and wellness.

Typically, dreaming occurs while in REM sleep, and the brain is more active when compared with non-REM sleep. REM sleep is also associated with sporadic changes in heart rate, respiration, and body temperature. In addition, rapid eye movement sleep activates the phasic pontine waves (P-waves) in the brain. The P-waves react to groups of cells that are associated with the neurotransmitter glutamate.

Also, REM sleep critical for recovery after a traumatic experience. The researchers base their work on the understanding that sleep plays a critical part in regulating emotions following a traumatic experience. When sleep problems are persistent, they are a predictor of anxiety disorders. One hallmark of anxiety disorders is the repeated experience of frightening memories that the individual cannot control.

The current preferred treatment for these fears is the use of exposure therapy, in which patients are coached through re-exposure to the frightening experience, with the goal of replacing the frightening memory with a different memory that competes with the frightening memory when that cue is re-encountered.

Adequate sleep is a prerequisite for the use of exposure therapy. Sleep on its own does not result in a successful treatment. Studies are aimed at determining which parts of the sleep cycle are critical in achieving success with exposure therapy. The researchers have used contextual fear extinction therapy to eliminate the conditioned fear so that the brain mechanisms could be measured for their role in exposure therapy. The findings of one study show that the introduction of fear-extinction training resulted in an increased level of rapid eye movement sleep. However, only 57% of the participants were able to retain the fear extinction past a 24-hour period. In the other 43% of participants, there was an absence of phasic P-wave activity, indicating that the fear-extinction memory was not retained, and they re-experienced the fear. The study’s findings highlight the critical role that the brain stem plays in the regulation of emotional memory.

Does Addiction To Food Really Exist?

Of the various eating disorders out there, food addiction receives a relatively small amount of attention. Most everyone has heard of bulimia, but food addiction is a completely different syndrome where a person will gorge themselves on a particular type of food, or a particular food group, to the point where they make themselves sick. There is often a period of guilt afterward where the person regrets the binging, but the behavior repeats itself again at a later time, and the cycle continues. This addiction is most often associated with junk food or with things like ice cream, but a person can develop a food addiction for almost anything. It is believed that food addiction is caused by depression, lack of self-confidence, and other mental health issues.

Since most people are not even aware that food addiction is an actual condition, it can be difficult for someone in your life to step in and show you that your behavior is unhealthy. Rest assured because a long-term recovery with a holistic approach is so much possible to get rid of the addiction to food.

What is the impact of food addiction?

Since eating is something we all must do on a regular basis, food addiction is an incredibly debilitating condition. It can take an action that most of us treasure, eating, and turn it into a hellish experience fraught with guilt, self-doubt, and anxiety. A person will likely lose weight, always try to eat by themselves, skip meals, and avoid being social at all costs. Since the body is likely being deprived of healthy meals during times of addiction, declines in health can be rapid. Because of the immediate impact food addiction can have on a person, the sooner a diagnosis can be made, the better.

What are the symptoms of food addiction?

Likely the first thing you will notice in a friend that has developed a food addiction is that they always seek to be alone when they eat. This is usually followed by signs of possible bulimia or other better-known eating disorders. Rapid weight loss and an aversion to food in a public place will often be seen, as well. Major changes in behavior and disposition are also likely. A person will seldom admit that they have a problem until a major event occurs, such as a trip to the hospital.

What are the consequences of food addiction?

To put it bluntly, the short-term consequence of food addiction is death. Even more than drug addiction, food addiction can have an immediate and profound impact on someone’s health. While drug addictions can be hidden, sometimes for months before someone finds out, food addiction is almost impossible to hide unless someone leaves the public eye altogether. Help for such a condition is available, mostly through doctors and clinics set up to treat other eating disorders. If you feel that someone you know has a food addiction or another eating disorder, it may be time to confront them or take a moment to speak to a health care professional.