How to Extend Your REM Cycle

By: Srini Boppana  |  December 6th, 2020

While all sleep stages are important, rapid eye movement or REM sleep plays a critical role in processing and storing information, allowing you to retain memories and lock down what you’ve learned during the day. Named for the distinct, rapid movements the eyes make during this part of sleep, REM helps boost creativity and mood during the day, making it a very important stage to achieve each night. Many people don’t realize that sleep is actually a very active process. REM is the stage of sleep when your brain is usually the most active, functioning at a level that is similar to being awake.  

Most of us require between 90 and 110 minutes of REM sleep each night, but it can be an elusive sleep stage to reach sometimes. Why is that? In this article, we’ll explore a few possible scenarios for why REM sleep might be escaping you, as well as some tips to up your minutes in REM sleep, so your mind feels rejuvenated and refreshed in the morning. 

How Much REM Sleep Am I Getting? 

Want to know how much REM you’re getting? Try tracking your sleep using the SleepScore App(it’s free)! You’ll be able to see how many minutes you were in REM sleep — as well as other fascinating details about your sleep each night plus personalized advice to help you get better sleep! 

Why Am I Not Getting Enough REM Sleep? 

While the science of sleep has more to discover, studies provide a few possible explanations for why people might not be getting enough REM sleep.  

Having a few alcoholic beverages in the evening could be contributing to your lack of sufficient REM. Alcohol has been found to reduce overall REM sleep as well as delay the first REM cycle. Nicotine is another possible reason. Not getting enough physical activity could also play a role; one study found that regular exercise had a positive effect on the research participants’ REM sleep.  

The answer is not always clear, but if one of these possible causes resonates with your own situation then resolving it might be the solution to getting a healthier amount of REM sleep.  

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How to Achieve More REM Sleep 

There are many things you can do to improve your sleep, including REMTo increase your time in the REM stage, you’ll need to think about your sleep cycle as a whole. These tips will help you gain improved sleep and a brighter tomorrow. 

  • Make exercise a priority. It doesn’t have to be every day, but aiming for several days per week can do wonders for your sleep as well as your overall physical and mental health.  Pace yourself so as not to overdo it and to prevent injury. Over time, you will build up endurance and stamina. If you’re not in the habit of walking, try adding a 10-minute walk to your day, and slowly increase it to 20 minutes, then 30. Or maybe you’d rather swim or dance. Just do what you enjoy most! If you’re doing an intense workout, it’s best to finish no later than 3 hours before bedtime. This ensures your body has time to wind down before sleep. 
  • Plan your bedtimes and wake times. The body loves routine. Try to start getting ready for bed at the same time each night, go to sleep at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time too. If that isn’t feasible, allow for at least 7 hours of sleep to pass before your alarm goes off. Over time, your body will acclimate to this regular schedule, you’ll more easily enter light, deep, and REM stages in full, and you may even find waking up to be easier! 
  • Find creative outlets for stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can impede your ability to get the rest that you need. Figure out what works for you. Some people like to read before bed, practice meditation and gratitude, or use a calming fragrance like lavender in the bedroom.  
  • Be mindful of your beverage intake in the evening hours. Hydrating during the day will keep your body healthy and reduce nighttime trips to the bathroomAlso, if you’re someone who enjoys caffeinated drinks or alcohol, be aware of how these can negatively impact your sleep.   

No two sleepers are the same. We all have different challenges in life that can influence our nightly rest. You can take proactive steps like these to improve your sleep health. You may just find yourself getting the necessary REM sleep your mind needs! 

Get the free SleepScore App for insights on how well you sleep, the quality and quantity of your sleep cycles, and sleep improvement progress with science-backed tips and insights. Download it for free from App StoreorGoogle Play Store. 

Sweet dreams!