REM sleep is the dream-filled stage where our mind is active but body paralyzed. Getting quality REM is vital for mental health, emotional regulation, memory, and learning.
But many adults get inadequate REM sleep, often less than the recommended 90 minutes per night. This REM sleep deprivation impairs cognitive function, focus and emotional stability.
The good news is REM sleep can be increased naturally using proven techniques and optimized sleep habits.
In this comprehensive guide, learn effective tips to boost REM sleep amounts so you reap the full benefits of this critical restorative stage.
The Importance of REM Sleep
REM stands for “rapid eye movement” because our eyes dart back and forth wildly during this sleep phase despite the body being paralyzed.
REM only represents 20-25% of total nightly sleep. But this dreaming stage provides unique mental and emotional benefits:
REM facilitates turning short term memories into long term storage and strengthening recall ability.
The enhanced neural activity during REM boosts overall cognitive function including concentration, focus and alertness when awake.
REM allows the mind to process experiences and control moods by regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin.
The unique brain activity during REM sparks creative thinking, problem-solving abilities, and divergent ideas.
REM enhances your ability to learn and retain new information since memory pathways are strengthened.
Clearly experiencing regular quality REM sleep is foundational to optimal mental health and performance. Now let’s cover how much REM you need nightly.
How Much REM Sleep Should You Get?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine officially recommends that adults get a minimum of 90 minutes of REM sleep nightly for optimal cognitive functioning and health.
However, REM needs can vary significantly by age:
- Newborns – 50%+ total sleep time in REM
- Young children – 40-50% REM
- Teenagers – 25% is REM
- Adults – 20-25% REM
- Elderly – 15-20% REM
As you age, the percentage of total sleep spent in REM naturally decreases as other stages become longer.
But all adults should aim for at least 90-120 minutes of REM per night – about 4-5 complete REM cycles.
If you regularly get significantly less REM, then you may be at risk for consequences like impaired focus, poor memory, low moods, and reduced creativity.
Now let’s look at some of the most common causes of inadequate REM sleep.
Why You May Have Reduced REM Sleep
There are a number of factors that can inhibit REM sleep quantity and quality:
As previously mentioned, REM sleep naturally decreases as we get older due to shifts in sleep architecture.
Drugs like antidepressants, blood pressure medications, allergy pills, and stimulants all interfere with REM cycles.
Consuming alcohol before bed reduces time spent in REM and overall sleep quality.
Conditions like insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg prevent entering REM normally.
Poor Sleep Habits
Inconsistent bedtimes, blue light exposure from screens at night, and lack of exercise all impair REM sleep.
High cortisol and rumination make it harder for the mind to settle into REM’s relaxed state.
Depressive disorders frequently disrupt normal REM sleep patterns and duration.
If you suspect your routine REM sleep is lower than optimal, then the following tips can help increase these critical cycles.
How to Get More REM Sleep
The good news is REM sleep can often be increased naturally using these proven techniques and best practices:
Regulate Your Circadian Rhythm
Going to bed and waking up at the same times daily programs your circadian clock for consistent REM sleep.
Block Blue Light at Night
Reduce screens for 2 hours before bed since blue light inhibits melatonin and REM sleep.
Drinking alcohol 4-6 hours before bed significantly reduces REM duration and quality.
Talk to your doctor about potential REM sleep disruptions from any prescriptions.
Monitor Caffeine Intake
Avoid caffeine 6+ hours before bedtime since the stimulant inhibits REM sleep.
Get Daily Sunlight
Exposure to bright sunlight during the day helps regulate circadian rhythms so you experience REM at night.
Exercise During the Day
Moderate exercise increases circadian sleep drive so you get more REM, but avoid vigorous exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Lower cortisol through yoga, meditation, deep breathing and other relaxation practices to increase REM.
Making these simple tweaks consistently can help optimize your sleep cycles and REM amounts naturally.
Foods and Supplements to Increase REM Sleep
Certain foods and supplements may also help boost REM sleep when consumed properly:
Tart Cherry Juice – Contains melatonin and inflammation-fighting compounds that promote REM sleep. Drink 1 cup before bedtime.
Chamomile Tea – Aids relaxation and shown in studies to increase REM sleep time.
Fish Oil – The omega-3’s improve sleep hormone regulation. Take 2 capsules daily.
Magnesium – Boosts REM sleep by reducing cortisol. Take up to 400 mg before bed.
Zinc – Shown to increase REM sleep. Take approximately 30 mg before bed.
Valerian Root – Induces relaxation by increasing GABA neurotransmitter. Take in tincture form 1 hour before bed.
Glycine – This amino acid is shown to shorten the time it takes to reach REM sleep. Take 3 grams before bed.
Talk to your doctor before trying new supplements to ensure safety and correct dosing based on your health status.
Tips to Stay in REM Sleep Longer
Once you successfully progress into REM sleep, follow these tips to remain in the REM stage longer before waking:
- Keep bedroom completely dark to reinforce the body’s rest state
- Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block light
- Set a humidifier to add moisture to the air which may deepen sleep
- Maintain a cooler room temperature around 65-68° F
- Use a white noise machine to muffle potential disruptive sounds
- Ensure your mattress and pillows are optimal for your sleep position
- Avoid drinking excess fluids close to bedtime to minimize bathroom trips
- Manage stress and avoid dwelling on problems when trying to fall back asleep after waking
Optimizing your sleep environment and limiting disruptions helps sustain those elusive REM cycles once attained.
How to Tell if You’re Getting Enough REM Sleep
Wondering if you’re getting sufficient high-quality REM slumber? Signs may include:
You wake feeling refreshed – REM leaves you feeling mentally recharged. Non-REM-dominated sleep still leaves you groggy.
Vivid dreaming – You frequently recall detailed, intense dreams upon waking. Lack of REM means less dreaming.
Good focus and concentration – Your productivity and mental clarity feels consistent thanks to REM’s cognitive benefits.
Emotional stability – Your mood and emotional reactions feel more regulated and less sensitive.
More creativity – You notice greater creative flow in your hobbies and problem-solving abilities at work.
Improved memory – Your overall recall, learning abilities and mental sharpness feel enhanced.
Track these cognitive and emotional markers in a sleep diary. If you notice impairments, it likely indicates inadequate REM sleep.
The Takeaway on Increasing REM Sleep
REM sleep provides incredible benefits for mental health, emotional regulation, memory, creativity and cognitive function.
But many adults get irregular or inadequate REM due to age, medication use, disorders or poor sleep hygiene.
The good news is REM sleep duration can often be increased naturally by optimizing your circadian rhythms, sleep environment, diet and stress levels.
Boost REM by avoiding alcohol before bed, limiting blue light exposure at night, and consuming REM-promoting supplements like magnesium.
With consistent practice of proper sleep habits and targeted REM-enhancing strategies, you can reap the full rewards of this critical final stage of sleep.
FAQs about Increasing REM Sleep
How can I get more deep REM sleep naturally?
The most effective natural ways to increase REM sleep are to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, limit blue light before bedtime, avoid alcohol, exercise earlier in the day, and lower stress through practices like yoga and meditation.
What time of night is REM sleep most common?
You typically get the most intense and longest REM sleep cycles later in the night during the last sleep stages before waking up naturally. The first REM cycle may start only 60-90 minutes after falling asleep.
Do power naps increase REM sleep?
It’s unlikely to enter REM sleep during short power naps less than 30 minutes. Longer 60-90 minute naps may allow you to cycle into a brief REM stage for added benefits.
Can you train yourself to get more REM sleep?
Yes, optimizing your sleep hygiene habits trains your circadian rhythm for consistent and ample REM sleep at night. Maintaining the same bedtime, limiting alcohol, reducing stress, and blocking blue light in the evenings are examples of good training.
How much REM sleep should a 60 year old get?
While REM decreases with age, adults 60+ should still aim for at least 60-90 minutes of REM per night for mental sharpness and emotional regulation. Use REM-boosting tips to maximize sleep quality.
Prioritize consistent, high-quality REM sleep every night to perform at your mental best during the day with good memory, stable mood, and creativity.
Originally posted on September 18, 2023 @ 6:36 am