4 Helpful Tips for Increasing REM Sleep
Although it might look like you’re not doing much while asleep, there are actually many things happening in your body during your slumber. Throughout the night, you cycle between REM and non-REM sleep and move through five sleep stages that take you from light to deep sleep. While all of the sleep stages are important, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is unique in that it plays a specific role in processing and storing information, allowing you to retain memories and information that you collected throughout your day. It’s also the sleep state in which you dream. Most of us require between 90 to 110 minutes of REM sleep each night, but it can often feel like an elusive state for some of us. So how can you increase the amount of time spent in this important stage of mentally-restorative sleep? I’m glad you asked. Today we’re going to discuss four helpful tips for increasing your REM sleep. Let’s get started!
Get enough activity during the day
In a culture where many people sit behind a desk for eight hours a day, it’s especially important to make sure you’re engaging in enough daily activity. Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, such as hiking, brisk walking, running, dancing, or swimming, per day will help promote deeper sleep at night.
Create a calming pre-bedtime routine
After a long, busy day, it can sometimes be difficult to unwind. Creating a bedtime routine can help calm the mind and body before sleep by soothing your nerves, reducing tension, and inducing relaxation. Include things in your routine that feel relaxing to you. Possible activities to include are meditation, deep belly breathing, taking a bath with candles, diffusing calming essential oils, doing some gentle yoga or stretching, or reading a book. Keep the light dim and try to stay away from electronics such as TV, cell phones, and computers before bed which emit blue light that can disrupt REM sleep. By engaging in a nightly routine, your body will come to associate the activities with bedtime and will release the appropriate hormones—cortisol and melatonin—in response.
Practice sleep consistency
It’s also important to practice sleep consistency by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. Your body functions most efficiently when it’s on a regular schedule—and this applies to sleep as well. Additionally, for all of you night owls out there, it’s crucial to start going to bed earlier. Going to bed early might seem like age-old, simple advice, but there is more to this tip than meets the eye. Most REM sleep happens during the last third of your sleep so it’s important that you allow yourself adequate time in bed. If you’re only in bed for four or five hours, your body might not even have time to reach the REM stage of sleep before your alarm goes off.
Avoid alcohol before bed
While it might feel like that late-night glass of wine is relaxing you in the moment, it’s probably doing more harm than good. Studies show that alcohol reduces overall time spent in the REM stage of sleep and delays the first REM cycle. If you must have alcohol, make sure that it’s at least three to four hours before bed.
The bottom line...
Getting adequate exercise, creating a calming bedtime routine, going to sleep and rising at the same times daily, and avoiding alcohol before bed can have a dramatic impact on increasing the amount of REM sleep you get. Practice these tips consistently and watch your quality of sleep improve. Sweet dreams!