How to improve your REM sleep: Tips for a more restful night

Have you ever awoken after a supposedly restful night’s sleep feeling worn out and groggy? It’s a frustrating experience that makes you yearn for a night of sleep that is genuinely peaceful. 

But do not worry—REM sleep is key to releasing the rest’s regenerative potential. Our brains are quite active during this stage, and vivid dreams form. However, REM sleep is essential to our general health and is not simply about fanciful dream worlds.

In this guide, we’ll dig into the nuances of REM sleep and provide helpful advice on improving its quality.

What is REM sleep?

One of the most important phases of the sleep cycle is known as REM sleep or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. Its hallmarks are rapid eye movements, intense dreams, and increased brain activity. 

Our bodies briefly become paralyzed to prevent us from physically carrying out our dreams while we are in REM sleep, when our brains become extraordinarily active and resemble a state of alertness.

This stage usually happens several times at night, with each REM sleep interval growing longer. 

A typical sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes, with 20 to 25 minutes being REM sleep [1].

Dreams that are vivid and frequently odd are one hallmark of REM sleep. These dreams may include complicated plotlines, vivid images, or even feelings and may be emotionally powerful. 

Our brains consolidate memories, process emotions, and perform critical cognitive tasks during REM sleep.

Although the specific function of REM sleep is still not entirely known, it is considered essential for memory consolidation, learning, emotional control and general mental health.

Cognitive decline, emotional issues and less creativity have all been linked to inadequate REM sleep.

what are the benefits of REM sleep?

What are the benefits of REM sleep?

Numerous significant advantages for our physical, cognitive and emotional health are provided by REM sleep. 

Let’s look at some of the major benefits of this intriguing sleep stage:

Improves cognitive function

For cognitive processes including learning and memory consolidation, REM sleep is essential. 

It improves recollection and retention by helping to cement newly learned knowledge. It also fosters creativity and problem-solving abilities.

Promotes emotional resilience

Regulating emotions and absorbing emotional events are crucial functions of REM sleep. 

It promotes emotional resilience, enabling us to handle stress, anxiety and emotional difficulties more effectively. 

A more optimistic attitude, better mood, and emotional stability can all be attributed to getting enough REM sleep.

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Boosts memory performance

The brain consolidates and reinforces memories during REM sleep, assisting in the transition of knowledge from short-term memory to long-term memory storage. 

This procedure is crucial for remembering knowledge and improving general cognitive performance.

Restores and refreshes the brain

The healing and repair of the brain are linked to REM sleep. 

It encourages the elimination of waste materials, poisons and metabolic wastes from brain cells to promote the health and performance of the brain.

Helps process dreams and emotions

In REM sleep, vivid dreams take place. We may analyze and make meaning of our feelings, experiences and memories through our dreams. 

They can offer perceptions, emotional release, and psychological development.

Improves motor skills

The improvement of motor abilities has also been associated with REM sleep. 

Sports, playing an instrument and fine motor skills all benefit from its assistance with motor learning, coordination, and muscle memory storage [2].

Factors affecting REM sleep

Several variables influence the degree and length of REM sleep. It is crucial to comprehend these elements to recognize potential obstacles to adequate REM sleep and make the required modifications. 

Let’s look at some of the main variables that may affect REM sleep:


High amounts of stress and anxiety can interfere with REM sleep. 

Cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt the normal sleep cycle, shortening and lowering REM sleep quality.

Lifestyle choices

A person’s way of life may have an impact on REM sleep. 

The normal progression of sleep phases, including REM sleep, can be hampered by irregular sleep patterns, frequent interruptions and variable sleep regimens. 

REM sleep can also be hampered by heavy alcohol use, smoking and caffeine use right before bed.

Medications and substances

Some drugs can prevent REM sleep, including some antidepressants and stimulants. 

Similar to how drugs like alcohol affect REM sleep, recreational drugs can also diminish REM sleep.

Sleep disorders

There can be a major influence on REM sleep from specific sleep disorders. 

The normal sequence of sleep stages, including REM sleep, can be interfered with by illnesses like sleep apnea, which causes breathing pauses while asleep. 

REM sleep can also be impacted by other conditions like insomnia, narcolepsy and REM sleep behavior disorder.

Sleep environment

The environment in which you sleep might affect REM sleep. 

Excessive noise, a hot or cold environment, poor lighting and an uncomfortable bed or pillow can all disturb sleep and prevent REM sleep.


Throughout life, REM sleep cycles alter. While REM sleep duration shortens as we age, infants spend much time in it. 

REM sleep may be less frequent and total sleep fragmentation may be greater in older persons.

Tips for improving REM sleep

Here are some tips you can use to have a more comfortable and restful sleep:

1. Create a sleep-friendly environment

A sleep-friendly atmosphere must be created to encourage good sleep, including the best possible REM sleep. 

Your environment may greatly influence how well you sleep and how long you sleep. 

Here are some suggestions for making a sleeping environment:

  • Make your bedroom as dark as you can

Use blackout curtains or blinds to prevent outside light from disrupting your sleep cycle, including REM sleep. If necessary, think about wearing eyewear.

  • Maintain a comfortable temperature

Keep the air in your bedroom cool and fresh. Generally, the optimal sleeping temperature is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 19 degrees Celsius). Or you can try several temperatures to see which suits you the best.

  • Reduce noise

Lessen the amount of noise that can wake you up at night. To block out outside disturbances and create a tranquil sleeping environment, use earplugs, white noise machines or relaxing background music. 

As an alternative, relaxing music or ambient noises might help you unwind.

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2. Establish a consistent sleep routine

To enhance REM sleep and improve the quality of your sleep, you must establish a regular sleep schedule. 

A consistent routine aids in maintaining your body’s natural clock and tells your brain when it’s time to relax and get ready for bed. 

Use the advice below to create a regular sleep schedule:

  • Set a consistent bedtime schedule

Choose a consistent bedtime so you can get the appropriate amount of sleep for your age. 

Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep. Try to adhere to this bedtime schedule on weekends as strictly as possible.

  • Wake up at the same time

Even on the weekends, establish a regular wake-up time to assist your body’s sleep-wake cycle to be more evenly balanced and to encourage a more regular sleep schedule [3].

  • Create a wind-down routine

Establishing a calming wind-down routine before bed will help your body recognize that it is time to sleep. 

Take part in relaxing activities like reading, taking a warm bath, practicing meditation, or deep breathing exercises.

manage stress and anxiety

3. Manage stress and anxiety

The quantity and quality of REM sleep you get and how much of it you get can all be dramatically impacted by stress and worry. 

To encourage peaceful sleep, these psychological aspects must be managed. 

Here are some techniques to aid you in reducing tension and anxiety so you can sleep better:

  • Be aware of your stressors

Determine the stressors in your life and become aware of how they affect your sleep and general well-being.  Recognize the tendencies and factors that raise your stress levels.

  • Stress-reducing techniques

Practice stress-relieving methods like progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation or deep breathing. 

These methods might help you relax and fall asleep by calming your body and mind.

  • Establish a bedtime ritual

Before going to bed, establish a stress-relieving habit that will help you relax. 

This might involve taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to soothing music. 

Your body may get a signal from consistency and predictability in your routine when it is time to unwind and get ready for bed.

4. Engage in physical activity

You may lengthen your REM sleep cycles and sleep longer, deeper, and more soundly if you exercise regularly. 

According to studies, those who regularly exercise tend to sleep longer in the restorative stages of sleep, including REM sleep.

Here’s how exercise influences REM sleep:

  • Enhances sleep duration

Regular exercise can help you achieve deeper and more restful sleep, including increased REM sleep duration. Studies have shown that individuals who exercise regularly tend to spend more time in the restorative stages of sleep, including REM sleep.

  • Improves sleep efficiency

Exercise can enhance sleep efficiency, which refers to how much time you spend asleep compared to the total time spent in bed. When your sleep efficiency is improved, you spend less time awake during the night and experience more continuous sleep, including REM sleep.

  • Reduces insomnia symptoms

Exercise has been shown to relieve insomnia symptoms, a sleep disorder characterized by difficulties falling or staying asleep. By reducing insomnia symptoms, exercise can indirectly improve REM sleep by promoting overall better sleep quality.

5. Watch your food intake

The foods we consume can significantly impact our sleep patterns and overall sleep quality, including REM sleep. Consider the following factors when it comes to nutrition and sleep:

  • Control caffeine and stimulants

Limit your consumption of caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and disrupt your sleep cycle, including REM sleep. Be mindful of other stimulants, like nicotine, which can also hinder sleep quality.

  • Avoid alcohol

While alcohol may initially make you tired, it can disrupt the natural sleep cycle and negatively affect REM sleep. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, particularly close to bedtime, to ensure a more restful night’s sleep.

  • Eat sleep-promoting foods

Some foods and drinks contain sleep-promoting substances that can aid in better sleep. For example, foods rich in tryptophan, like turkey, chicken, nuts, and seeds, can support the production of serotonin and melatonin, hormones that regulate sleep.

Closing thoughts

Understanding the significance of REM sleep and improving its quality can have various positive effects, including improvements in memory, emotional and psychological well-being, and brain healing. 

You may harness the power of peaceful REM sleep and benefit from its transforming benefits by creating a sleep-friendly atmosphere, adopting a regular sleep schedule, controlling stress and anxiety and adding exercise into your daily life.


What causes REM sleep to increase?

Increased REM sleep can be facilitated by regular exercise, stress management, a regular sleep schedule, and a sleep-friendly atmosphere. 

How much REM sleep is normal?

Adults typically experience about 20 to 25% of their total sleep time in REM sleep. This equates to roughly 90 to 120 minutes of REM sleep in a whole night’s sleep. 

What activates REM sleep?

REM sleep is primarily activated by the complex interaction between various neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly acetylcholine. The release of acetylcholine triggers the onset of REM sleep and stimulates the areas responsible for vivid dreaming and heightened brain activity

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Photograph: YuriArcursPeopleimages/Envato
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