How to Extend Your REM Cycle

While all of the sleep stages are important, REM sleep plays a specific role in processing and storing information, allowing you to retain memories and lock down what you’ve learned during the day. Most of us require between 90 to 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 is escaping you, as well as some tried and true tips to up your minutes in REM sleep, so your mind feels rejuvenated and refreshed in the morning.

Why am I Not Getting Enough REM Sleep?

While the exact science of sleep is still somewhat murky, there are studies that suggest a few reasons why you’re not getting enough REM sleep. Having a few alcoholic beverages in the evening may be contributing to your lack of REM. Alcohol has been found to both reduce overall REM sleep at night, as well as delay the first REM cycle. Nicotine is another known culprit for suppressing this stage of rest according to a 2009 study.

Not getting regular physical activity could be another reason for interrupted REM sleep, as one study found that the REM cycle was positively affected among subjects who worked out on a consistent basis. There’s also growing evidence that times of stress or depression lead to decreases, disruptions, and delays in REM sleep. The answer is not always clear, but if one of these causes resonates with your own situation, resolving it could be the answer to getting in a solid REM cycle.

How to Achieve More REM Sleep

There are a multitude of things you can do to enter all the necessary sleep stages, including REM, every night. To increase your time in the REM stage, you’ll need to think about your sleep cycle as a whole. These tips will allow you to enter light, deep, and REM stages more easily and consistently, resulting in improved sleep health and a brighter tomorrow.

  • Make exercise a daily priority. As research tells us, a single day of exercise likely won’t make a difference in REM sleep, but physical activity on a regular basis can yield improvements. Try adding a 20-minute walk into your day, and slowly increase it to 30 minutes, and then 40. There’s also yoga, swimming, jogging, or any other light to medium physical activity. Just do what you enjoy most! Be sure to plan your workout no later than 3 hours before bedtime. This ensures your body has time to wind down.
  • Plan your sleep and wake times. Keeping your sleep schedule intact every day is critical to entering the necessary sleep stages regularly. Try to get to bed at the same time each night, and allow for at least 7 hours to pass before you need to wake up. Over time, your body will acclimate to the 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 stress is consuming your life, it can impede your ability to get the rest that you need. Some people like to workout, write in a journal, practice meditation, and gratitude, or utilize other methods to manage stress appropriately.
  • Be mindful of your beverage intake. Hydrating during the day will keep your body healthy, and reduce wake ups to use the restroom. And while that second glass of wine is so tempting, maybe think twice about it. We recommend having your last drink at least three hours before bed.

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

“The Possible Functions of REM Sleep and Dreaming”. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11121/
“Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use”. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm.
“Effects of Nicotine on Sleep During Consumption, Withdrawal and Replacement Therapy”. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19345124.
“Physical Fitness, Exercise, and REM Sleep Cycle Length”. Wiley Online Library. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8986.1982.tb02606.x/full.
“Changes in Sleep Architecture Following Chronic Mild Stress”. ScienceDirect. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322396000583.
Published on: December 8th, 2017 by: Leah Perri

Last modified on September 10th, 2018



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