How Much REM Sleep Should You Get Every Night?
Did you know there are 4 stages in the sleep cycle? Although each stage is crucial, the final stage of each sleep cycle, REM, has been the focus of many studies. REM stands for “rapid eye movement” and gets its name from the way our eyes move from side to side during this stage. Interestingly enough, our brain waves are nearly as active as when we are awake during REM sleep, and it’s also when we dream. Researchers have found that eye movements during REM aren’t random but actually how we follow the scenes of our dreams.
Although dreaming occurs during REM sleep, it's not the only process happening in your body during this final stage of the sleep cycle. It's also important for long-term memory and waking up well-rested. But how much REM sleep should you get every night? Keep reading as we share everything you need to know about rapid eye movement sleep.
What is REM sleep and why is it important?
As mentioned at the outset, there are four different stages of sleep. The first three are non-REM sleep (also called NREM sleep) and include:
- N1: Transition between sleep and wakefulness
- N2: Light sleep
- N3: Deep sleep
During non-rapid eye movement sleep, your muscles relax and brain waves are much slower. However, it’s during NREM that you build muscle and bone, the tissues repair themselves, and your immune system is strengthened.
The final stage, REM sleep, is much different than the previous three. As you enter REM, your brain becomes active again and you will likely experience vivid dreams. Although it’s not considered a restful stage, REM is essential for the following functions.
Memory and Learning
You’ve likely heard about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep instead of staying up all night cramming for an important test or meeting. One of the reasons is that during REM sleep, our brains consolidate memories, especially information we learned before bed. If you want to remember what you study, memory consolidation is vital!
This sleep stage also plays a crucial role in creativity and problem-solving skills, which are essential to answering test questions correctly. For this reason, REM is the mentally restorative phase of sleep and deprivation can lead to decreased cognitive function.
There’s truth in the adage “sleep it off, you’ll feel better in the morning” after a bad day. REM sleep is important for the regulation of emotions. If you don’t get enough REM sleep, you may feel more irritable or emotionally reactive. The reason is that REM sleep deprivation causes increased excitation in the limbic system, creating abnormal responses to undesirable information.
Wake Up More Rested
During REM sleep, your body prepares to wake up. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and brain activity increase. Because the processes in your body are similar to the levels you experience while awake, you’ll feel less groggy and disoriented if you wake up right after REM sleep. This is likely when you’ll feel most rested.
How much REM sleep do you need?
We all want to experience the benefits of REM sleep and to do so, we need to get plenty of it. How much REM sleep is enough? Although the answer varies according to age, most healthy adults need to spend about 20-25% of their total time asleep in the REM stage. If you’re getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep, at least 96 minutes of your total sleep time should be rapid eye movement sleep.
Interestingly enough, you get more REM sleep in the second half of your time asleep since the REM period gets progressively longer with each sleep cycle. During your first sleep cycle of the night, you should enter REM about 90 minutes after falling asleep, but it only lasts about 10 minutes. On the next sleep cycle, your REM period will get a little longer, and the last REM sleep cycle of the night could have a duration of about an hour.
What happens if you don’t get enough REM sleep?
Lack of REM sleep can negatively impact your body and brain, particularly your emotions, memory, and energy levels. As a result, you may not feel as sharp as you normally do if you don’t get enough REM sleep. You may also experience migraines or other adverse side effects.
Since you get most of your REM sleep in the second half of the night, not getting enough of it is also an indication that you aren’t sleeping enough, which can lead to sleep deprivation. If prolonged, sleep deprivation can cause an increased risk for serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and poor mental health.
How to get more quality sleep
After learning of its importance, you no doubt want to get as much quality sleep as possible so you can feel your best and be on top of your game! Thankfully, improving your sleep habits and prioritizing sleep hygiene can help you get better quality sleep (including REM).
Stress can cause physiological changes in our bodies, some of which interfere with our sleep cycles. For example, increased muscle tension, an elevated heart rate, or an upset stomach can make it hard to relax and fall asleep easily. Although some stress is inevitable, finding ways to relax can lead to better quality sleep.
Establish a Sleep Routine
Keeping a regular sleep routine helps regulate your circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock. If possible, try to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
Create an Ideal Sleep Environment
The right sleep environment can help you fall asleep faster and prevent you from waking up during the night. If you live near a busy street or outside light comes in the window, black-out curtains or a sleep mask may eliminate stimuli that wake you up. Meanwhile, the right temperature can keep you from waking up because you’re too hot or cold.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Drinking too much caffeine can prevent you from falling asleep or make you feel jittery. Although alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it interferes with your sleep quality. Both of these substances are diuretics, so you’ll also likely need to wake up to urinate during the night if you drink caffeine or alcohol before bed.
One study found that 12 weeks of exercise training lengthened sleep duration and improved sleep quality in adolescents, even increasing REM sleep. If you want to get more REM sleep, incorporating more activity into your say is a great way to do so, whether that’s hitting the gym, walking to work, or simply taking the stairs more. Just be sure to avoid exercise before bed since it may make you more alert and prevent you from falling asleep.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Fueling your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly can also lead to better-quality sleep. Ideally, you should avoid excess sugar, refined carbs, and saturated fats. Replace them with ingredients rich in high-fiber and lean protein, which promote healthy digestion. Vitamins and minerals are also important for the production of melatonin, so make sure to include these in your diet as well.
If you find it difficult to unwind at the end of the day, meditation can help you become more mindful. You’ll find it easier to avoid overthinking and control your anxious thoughts, especially before bedtime. This will help you fall asleep faster, and thus, get more sleep.
Get Checked for Sleep Disorders
Certain medical conditions, such as sleep apnea and insomnia, can prevent your body from achieving normal sleep. If you suspect you have a sleep condition, visit a medical professional! Treatment will result in healthy sleep and increased time in the REM stage.
Experience deeper sleep with BrainLuxury
Now you see the importance of prioritizing better sleep quality and quantity. The tips provided can help you improve your sleep patterns over time, but if you want to see quicker results for quality sleep, we recommend combining these healthy habits with BrainLuxury DELTA.
Our formula is unique because, unlike other sleep supplements, it doesn’t make you groggy and isn’t addictive. Rather, it provides your body with the ingredients it needs to support a natural sleep cycle. If you’d like to learn more, read what our customers have to say about DELTA!
We hope this has helped you on your quest for brain health. If you have any questions about our products, feel free to reach out to our team.