What is REM Rebound? | Overview & Effect

Spenser Egan, Duane Cloud
  • Author
    Spenser Egan

    Spenser Egan is a graduate of The University of Maine in Orono. He majored in Psychology, with a minor in both Economics and Anthropology.

  • Instructor
    Duane Cloud

    Duane has taught teacher education courses and has a Doctorate in curriculum and instruction. His doctoral dissertation is on ''The Wizard of Oz''.

Discover more about REM rebound, also called REM sleep rebound. Learn the REM rebound definition and facts about the REM rebound effect. Updated: 12/01/2021

Table of Contents


What is REM Rebound

Anyone who has ever pulled an all-nighter probably has experienced REM rebound, whether they know what it is or the effect it has. REM stands for rapid-eye-movement and typically is used when talking about REM sleep, the period of sleep when dreaming takes place. During this dreaming stage, the brain shows some signs of wakefulness, including the movement of the eyes, from which the REM stage gets its name. REM sleep is crucial because it is responsible for brain health and, in particular, the parts of the brain associated with memory. A person who doesn't get enough REM sleep can wake up with migraines and may feel extra groggy.

REM Rebound Definition

When the brain doesn't get enough REM sleep, it will compensate the next time it rests by shortening other stages of sleep in order to enter REM sooner and remain in that stage for longer. This is what is known as REM rebound, effectively allowing the brain to make up for lost time. Because REM is so important to the brain's health and function, REM rebound is considered a healthy process. However, one should not aim to experience it because it is caused by unhealthy sleep practices which prevent REM sleep. When the body doesn't get enough REM sleep, it begins to build up a "sleep debt," and REM rebound is the body's way of repaying that debt later on.

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  • 0:00 Sleep Deprivation
  • 0:36 REM Sleep
  • 1:37 REM Rebound
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Cause of REM Sleep Rebound

Some causes of REM Rebound include:

-Sleep Deprivation




REM sleep rebound is only seen when the brain hasn't had its required amount of REM sleep, so it is caused by things that prevent or reduce REM. One cause of rebound is a general lack of sleep. If someone doesn't get a decent amount of sleep on a given night, their body is unable to enter REM for the amount of time that it needs to be properly rested. This will cause REM rebound on subsequent nights to compensate. Things to avoid to prevent this cause include not staring at screens before bed, as the blue light makes sleeping more difficult. Similarly, avoiding caffeine later in the day can make it easier to fall asleep and, by extension, get the proper amount of REM sleep that is needed. Other factors that can cause a reduced amount of REM sleep include anti-depressants and alcohol. Some people insist that alcohol helps them sleep, and while it may indeed aid in falling asleep, it also causes the sleep to be lighter and prevents the brain from entering REM. This means you can get a full night of sleep and still suffer from REM rebound the next day.

Crucially, the amount of REM rebound needed is directly linked to the amount of REM sleep lost. The longer someone stays up, or the more they inhibit REM sleep, whether intentionally or not, the more time the brain will need in REM, and the more they will be in REM rebound. Because of the importance of sleep deprivation, it will be covered in its own section below.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is a seemingly simple problem but has many major impacts. Sleep deprivation is a lack of sleep, and, in particular, an amount of sleep that does not fulfil the body's need. It is difficult to overstate the importance of sleep, as it is such a crucial aspect of everyday life and our body's ability to function. Without sleep, it is more difficult to remember important information and to maintain attention on important tasks and can cause feelings of fatigue. The more time the body goes without sleep, and without REM sleep, the greater these effects will be.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does REM rebound suggest about REM sleep?

REM rebound shows how important REM sleep is because the brain prioritizes it, and manipulating sleep function makes up for previously lost REM sleep.

What Is REM rebound and why is it important?

REM rebound is the brain's way of catching up on REM sleep, which is crucial to having a restful night of sleep.

What is an example of REM rebound?

Someone might experience REM rebound after a night of drinking. Alcohol inhibits REM sleep, so the next night that person would likely experience REM rebound as their brain makes up for the REM lost on the previous night.

How long does REM rebound last?

The amount of time that REM rebound lasts depends upon how much REM sleep was missed. The less REM sleep the brain receives, the more time it will spend in rebound.

Is REM rebound a sleep disorder?

REM rebound is not a sleep disorder, and actually works to counteract sleep disorders which inhibit or reduce the amount of REM sleep that people have.

When does sleep rebound happen?

REM rebound presents after someone doesn't get enough sleep. If someone stays up all night, they likely will experience REM rebound the next time they sleep.

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