Why lack of REM sleep can drive you crazy, literally….

by | Mar 22, 2023 | Sleep

So firstly, what actually is sleep?

Sleep is a naturally occurring state, characterised by an absence or reduction in consciousness and an inactivity of the senses and most voluntary muscles.

Why do we need sleep?

Ever felt groggy and/or foggy after a poor night’s sleep? This is hardly surprising if we appreciate that, sleep significantly impacts the human brain function. Firstly, an adequate amount of sleep is vital for brain plasticity which is our brain’s ability to input and adapt. Not enough sleep inhibits our ability to process the information we have absorbed during the day. We will also have more difficulty remembering this information it in the future.

Sleep therefore is an essential process for the human brain and body to develop and function healthily.

Peter Tripp’s 200 hours of sleep deprivation experiment, scary findings…

In 1959 a radio DJ called Peter Tripp undertook a challenge to stay awake for 200 hours as a publicity stunt in New York. Tripp was given stimulants by doctors to stay awake.

After 100 hours of wakefulness, Tripp struggled with simple maths tasks or to recite the alphabet.

After 120 continuous hours of being awake he began to have hallucinations and saw flames when he opened his hotel chest of drawers for his clothes. At first Tripp thought that the scientists had set the fire as a practical joke or perhaps to try and get him to drop out of the challenge. Tripp then started to believe that the scientists were conspiring against him and trying to frame him for a crime. Finally, when one scientist dressed in a suit came up to him, Tripp believed that the scientist was an undertaker who had come to bury him. Tripp then ran away into the street.

Tripp’s famous experiment illustrates that sleep deprivation and particularly REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep deprivation, leads to a reduction in problem solving, decision making, memory, learning and emotional control. The more severe effects being, hallucinations, paranoia and a persecution complex towards the end of the experiment.

What is REM sleep and why is it important?

All stages of sleep are important, but REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep in particular plays an important role in dreaming, memory, emotional processing, and healthy brain development.


Although REM is not the only stage in which dreams occur, the majority of dreams occur in the REM stage of sleep. The dreams we experience while in REM are more vivid.

Emotional processing: 

During REM sleep the brain processes emotions. Sleep researchers consider, the more vivid the dream the more likely it is to be involved in emotional processing.

Memory consolidation: 

During REM sleep your brain processes all the information it has received during that day. REM sleep is then a bit like a daily spring cleaning, process for the brain. After the brain has processed what it has learned from the day, it decides and selects what memories it will retain and which ones it will delete.

Brain development: 

Since newly born human babies spend most of their time in REM sleep researchers hypothesize that REM sleep promotes brain development.

So Peter Tripp aside, what is the gradual impact of lack of REM sleep for the rest of us?

Sleep researchers have found that REM sleep deprivation disrupts the brain’s ability to generate new cells. Here’s what regularly missing out on REM sleep can result in:

  • Irritability and low mood
  • Concentration problems
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Increased likelihood of seizures
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Migraines worsen
  • High blood pressure worsens
  • Comprised immunity, leading to increased likelihood of infection and illness.

How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help rebalance your REM sleep to a healthy level…

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy focuses on the positives which encourages a steady flow of serotonin, which is our brains main feel good chemical. This helps to balance the amount of stress chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline that the brain produces.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can further reduce the unprocessed stress in our brains by inducing a REM replication state, during the sessions and by the client listening to the relaxation MP3 in between the sessions.

The brain is therefore gradually trained to relax on a deeper level, produce more serotonin and rewire itself. So the good news is, that this makes falling asleep far easier and hatches a new healthy pattern for your brain. It’s no wonder that clients generally emerge from the hypnosis part of the session feeling deeply relaxed, refreshed and with a sparkle in their eyes!

Hi, I'm Louise