How Much REM Sleep Do You Need?
What does REM sleep mean?REM sleep, or “rapid eye movement” sleep, is one of the four stages of sleep that we all experience throughout the night – along with the lightest, light, slow wave and deep sleep stages. During this time, your brain takes your short-term memories, so any activities or moments that occurred that day, and turns them into long-term memories. Because of this, your brain is particularly active during REM sleep, so you may experience more vivid dreams.
In REM sleep, the following occurs:
- As the name suggests, your eyes rapidly move behind your eyelids
- Your heart rate and blood pressure levels rise to near waking levels
- Your breathing becomes faster and irregular
- Brain activity increases
- Your face and body may move or twitch slightly, but your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralysed which prevents you from acting your dreams out
Why is REM sleep important?So why is REM sleep important? During this time, your brain is more active than any of the other stages of sleep – and this is where memory consolidation predominantly occurs. Anything new that you have learnt that day will be committed to your store of memories. REM sleep helps to stimulate the areas of the brain that are essential for learning and making memories – without it, you may struggle to recall them.
When does REM sleep occur?REM sleep first occurs around 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Your eyes will start to move rapidly behind your closed eyelids, and mixed frequency brain wave activity increases.
So, how much REM sleep do you need?It’s no secret that our sleep needs change as we grow older – but there’s no sleep pattern fit for people of the same age, either.
But how much REM sleep do you need to wake up feeling refreshed? On average, each person goes through 3-5 REM cycles each night, with each one getting longer as the night progresses. The last REM cycle will last for around an hour. Typically, you want 20-25% of your night’s sleep to be in this stage. So, if you get the recommended eight hours’ sleep, you should spend 90 minutes of this in the REM cycle. But as you grow up, less of your sleep is taken up by the REM stage.
How to get more REM sleepAre you wondering how to get more REM sleep? There are a few steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep, and ensure that there’s enough time for efficient memory consolidation.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine – if you go to bed at the same time each night, your body and mind will know to prepare themselves for sleep, helping you drift off sooner and therefore leave room for REM sleep.
- Remove any potential interruptions – like loud sounds, high temperatures and bright lights – that might affect your quality of sleep. So turn off your phone, sleep in the dark and keep your body temperature at a manageable level. Wool bedding is a great way to keep your body temperature down – with natural temperature relating qualities, it wicks moisture away from the body and leaves you feeling cool and comfortable.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed – it’s no secret that an evening of drinking or a coffee before bed can keep you awake. But this also prevents you from falling into a deeper sleep, reducing the number of REM cycles throughout the night.
- Try to keep your stress levels low – it can lead to restless nights of worrying and tossing and turning. You can exercise, write a journal, read a book or even meditate to help lower your stress levels.
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