woman floating in purple spaceSleep is a crucial part of healthy living. Truly, we can’t live without it. More specifically, we can’t live without deep sleep, otherwise known as REM (rapid eye movement). It’s recommended that we get at least seven to nine hours every night. 

At the surface, it seems as though we’re just spending a long time in la la land. But in reality – this time is necessary for our mind and body to go through some important processes in order to stay energetic and healthy. 

What is REM sleep? 

REM sleep or ‘paradoxical sleep’ is the cycle of your sleep when your eyes will move and dart quickly beneath your eyelids. REM sleep is distinguished between non-REM sleep because this is the time your brain activity increases, your pulse quickens and you have dreams. But this cycle doesn’t occur until after three phases of non-REM sleep according to Medical News Today, which are: 

Then REM sleep really starts to take place, typically around 90 minutes in. This sleep stage recurs every 90 minutes, for about 10 minutes each time – meaning you might go through three to five REM cycles every night. Only about 13 to 23 percent of your overall sleep is deep sleep. If you sleep for around 8 hours, you might only get about 60 to 110 minutes.

Now is the time when you are most likely dreaming and your brainwaves are darting around, but your arms and legs are still in place to prevent you from physically enacting your dreams.

Why is REM sleep important?

When we talk about being sleep deprived, it’s not always about the length of time you’re sleeping. Of course, we need somewhere from seven to eight hours on average, but reaching that REM stage and getting at least 90 minutes of it is the crux of a good night’s rest. And quite frankly, the launching point for a healthy life.

In fact, if REM sleep is interrupted, that could also carry you into the next night because your sleep progression has been put out of whack. Here are the main reasons behind the significance of REM sleep and why we need it.

Why am I not getting enough REM sleep? 

So now you know how important obtaining quality REM sleep is. And if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably questioning why you’ve been lacking it recently. We definitely hope this isn’t the case, but if it is, there are a number of reasons why our REM cycle may be interrupted or curtailed, including:

  • Jet lag

  • Substance use: caffeine, alcohol, marijuana, narcotic medications, antidepressant medications, etc.

  • Lack of regular physical activity

  • Sleep disorders or medical conditions: obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, etc.

  • Stress and depression

If you’re concerned about prolonged sleep deprivation or lack of REM sleep, consult with a physician. No two people are the same and we could be influenced by multiple things at once or something deeper – it’s always best to check. 

How can I get more REM Sleep?

Besides connecting with a sleep physician or your own doctor, there are some practical steps you can take into your own hands to extend or increase REM sleep:

Final Thoughts

REM sleep and quality sleep in general is important to your overall health, well-being and development. By taking all of the above information into account, you’ll be on the right track to feeling rested and healthy. And even though the technology is new, there are sleep trackers out there to help you track your sleep pattern so you can better gauge your cycles.