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Maximizing REM Sleep: Importance, Tips, and Strategies for Quality Rest

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June 5, 2023

Maximizing Your Zzzs: How to Get More REM Sleep

Medically reviewed by: 

Getting enough restful sleep can be a struggle for many, especially those who suffer from insomnia. One of the most important stages of sleep is REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. It serves several vital functions that are essential to your sleep, recovery, and long term memory. Learn more about what REM sleep is, why it's important, and learn tips on how to get more of it to help you maximize your sleep.

What is REM Sleep?

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is the stage of sleep that occurs roughly every 90 minutes of sleep and is characterized by rapid eye movement, heightened brain activity and vivid dreams. During REM sleep, your body undergoes physiological changes such as increased heart rate and decreased muscle tone. Adequate amounts of REM sleep are essential for physical restoration, memory consolidation, and overall cognitive function. 

How Much REM Sleep Do You Need?

REM only makes up about 25% of sleep in adults. There is no way to increase REM sleep except to avoid doing things that impact it. Factors such as alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, and inconsistent sleep schedules can affect the amount needed. It's important to track your individual needs and adjust accordingly to ensure you are getting enough restful REM sleep.

Tips for Getting More REM Sleep

Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Establishing and sticking to a sleep schedule is crucial for improving the quality of your REM sleep:

  • Establish a consistent bedtime and wake-up time: Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, even on weekends or days off.
  • Avoid sleeping in on weekends or days off: Sleeping in disrupts your body's internal clock, making it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Create a routine that signals your body it's time for sleep: This can include activities like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing relaxation techniques.

Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment

A relaxing sleep environment sets the stage for quality REM sleep:

  • Keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet: The ideal temperature range for sleep is 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Investing in blackout curtains or an eye mask can block out any unwanted light that may disrupt your REM sleep. Additionally, using earplugs or a white noise machine can help drown out any outside noises that may keep you awake at night.
  • Bedding and pillows play an important role: Choose materials that are soft and breathable to prevent overheating during the night. Memory foam pillows can also provide adequate neck support

Avoid Stimulants Before Bedtime

Stimulants play a vital role in your ability to get the proper amount of sleep:

  • Limit caffeine intake throughout the day: Caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in your system for up to eight hours and disrupt your ability to fall asleep or enter deep REM sleep.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bed: It may make you feel drowsy initially but can ultimately lead to fragmented sleep and decreased REM cycles
  • Reduce screen time before bed: Blue light emitted from electronic devices can disrupt circadian rhythms and suppress melatonin production, making it harder for you to fall asleep and achieve restorative sleep

Exercise Regularly

Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can have a significant positive impact on your sleep quality:

  • Doesn't have to be an intense workout: Even going for a walk or doing some light stretching can help. However, try not to exercise close to bedtime as this could keep you awake. In addition, engaging in relaxing exercises such as yoga or meditation before bed can help calm the mind and prepare the body for restful sleep

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day, preferably earlier in the day rather than later so that it does not interfere with bedtime relaxation routines like yoga or meditation that will prepare you well for deep restorative REM sleep!

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Identifying triggers that cause stress and anxiety is crucial in managing them effectively. Once you know what causes these emotions, you can take steps to avoid or mitigate those situations. 

  • Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation to help calm your mind and body when feeling stressed or anxious