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How to Increase REM Sleep: Strategies to Enhance Restorative Sleep

Written by Dr. Catherine Darley on April 18, 2024
How to increase REM sleep is a common question as people work to gain sleep skills. Let’s look at how to increase REM sleep naturally.
First, a bit about REM sleep. REM stands for “rapid eye movement”, as during this type of sleep the eyes move rapidly - think as though your eyes were following a tennis match!

During REM sleep, the brainwaves are most similar to waking, being relatively fast and low amplitude. This is quite different from Stage 3 sleep when the brainwaves are slow and high amplitude, hence the name “deep sleep” or “slow wave sleep.” Because the brainwaves are similar to waking we can have really complex, story-like dreams. Fortunately, our skeletal muscles are paralyzed, so we don’t act out our dreams.

REM sleep occurs more in the second half of the night than in the first half. It’s particularly prevalent around our core body temperature minimum, which often occurs about 4am. REM sleep purpose is two-fold. It helps with learning and memory, and also has a role in emotional regulation.

How to Boost REM Sleep Every Night

The biggest cause of insufficient REM sleep is chronic sleep deprivation. How to get more REM sleep is to make sure you have enough total sleep time. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each and every night. The most important thing to do is to determine your individual sleep need, then design your lifestyle to allow that sleep total.

Many people get only about 6 hours of sleep on work nights, which selectively cuts off their REM sleep. So, the first way to increase REM sleep is simply to get the sleep you need each night. You’ll be glad you did as increased REM means better cognitive performance.

To improve REM sleep also ensure that your bedroom is cool at night, ideally less than 65 degrees fahrenheit. This helps your core body temperature drop so that you sleep well. When the room is cool, heat goes towards your skin, which helps your core body temperature drop and REM sleep increase.

We hope these sleep skills on how to improve REM sleep help you! To learn more sleep tips check out the Skilled Sleeper course

About the Author: Dr. Catherine Darley

Dr. Catherine Darley is a pioneering internationally recognized expert in the use of natural, behavioral and lifestyle medicine for the treatment of sleep disorders. Dr. Darley founded the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine to fill the need for natural, less invasive solutions to a common problem–poor sleep.  

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