How Much REM Sleep Do You Need? Why Is It Important?

By Kendra Reed

Updated On

Sleep plays an important role in our lives as it helps the mind and body perform well. However, many of us do not get adequate sleep and it manifests in our ability to think rightly. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep helps with learning and long-term memory formation. Apart from increasing brain power, a night of good sleep can also elevate mood and promote overall health. Studies have confirmed that the recent surge in lifestyle diseases has an intrinsic relationship with sleep deprivation. 

Now that we have talked about the importance of maintaining proper sleep, we can explore the different phases of sleep. The scientific studies about sleep patterns have disclosed four major stages in sleep and REM along with deep sleep seem to be the most beneficial ones. What makes REM significant is the fact that it builds up memory, helps emotional processing, and promotes brain development. It can have a very positive impact on the psychological state of mind.  

We will discuss sleep and its wider implications in the upcoming sections.

Understanding Sleep Cycles

We cannot understand sleep in its essence without learning Rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleeping patterns. When humans sleep they do not enter REM directly and have to complete non-REM stages. Typically, NREM sleep has three distinct stages, and the higher the NREM, the more difficult it becomes to wake a person.

REM Sleep

When a person falls into sleep it begins with a short period of NREM stage 1, followed by stages 2, 3, and then finally to REM sleep. REM sleep can be seen rather as a culmination of various stages of sleep patterns and accounts for almost 25% of the total time asleep.

The Role Of REM Sleep

In deep sleep (NREM-3) the human body recharges itself and repairs cells and tissues. However, in the REM stage, the body focuses its attention more on replenishing cognitive health. It means memory enhancement and brain development that becomes indispensable for healthy living. To elaborate on, during REM the brain activity progresses to the levels when we are awake.

In contrast, the body will be in a state of atonia or temporary paralysis. Only the eyes and the muscles that control breathing will work in such a state. It has been found that it takes more or less 90 minutes of uninterrupted sleep for a person to reach the REM sleep stage.

How Much REM Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep a human being requires depends on the age parameters. For instance, an infant requires almost 12 to 16 hours of sleep per day whereas adults could manage it with 7 hours. However, individuals do not sleep the whole night flat on the REM stage and cycle in between varied stages of REM and NREMs.

It has been recorded that the NREM sleep stages add up to almost 75 to 80 percent of the total sleep, while the REM stage constitutes 20 to 25 percent. Coming back to the moot question of how much REM sleep an individual requires, there are no fixed guidelines. What health experts observe is to get at least 7 hours of sleep at a stretch every night which will ensure that you stay enough time in the REM stage.

Factors Affecting REM Sleep

REM sleep is affected by a host of factors such as mental health. Anxiety and stress also seem to cause disruptions in REM sleep stages. In certain cases, physical pain can also play a role in sleep irregularities. In current times, nightlife has gained momentum among the youth and it may not be conducive for REM cycles.

Experts point out that having a regular bedtime could potentially increase the chances of good sleep. Removing electronic devices and not using smartphones when going to bed will help to get better REM sleep. It has also been seen that underlying health conditions and the use of medicines hamper sleep cycles.

Signs Of Insufficient REM Sleep

Mood disorders are common in those who have insufficient REM sleep. In addition, it can also contribute to a lack of mental focus and forgetfulness. Other symptoms include lacking energy levels and feeling hungry. It has also been seen that those who have sleep disorders get short-tempered and irritated quickly.

In all, chronic sleep deprivation can cause several issues and can be devastating to health and rob productive hours. The long-term effects of this can be serious as it can be a free ticket to major lifestyle diseases. Those who sleep less can have blood pressure variations and heart palpitations which can lead to cardiovascular diseases. 

How To Improve REM Sleep Quality?

As we have been discussing, improving REM sleep quality is crucial to retain good health. There are certain things that you can do to achieve this. The first and foremost thing is to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. It would help if you could keep your windows and doors shut to have a cool and dark bedroom.

Additionally, you can integrate white noise and have aromatherapy to enhance the feeling of well-being. Some people use earplugs while they sleep and it seems to help to get undisturbed sleep. Eating food rich in magnesium and avoiding alcohol or beverages that contain caffeine inside it also can improve sleep quality

Summing Up

In this article, we have discussed the importance of the REM sleep cycle and the factors affecting restorative sleep. The symptoms of having insufficient REM sleep and what we can do to improve this problem were also touched upon.

As we know, sleep in general and REM in particular plays a significant role in our wellbeing, and is essential to prioritize it to achieve ideal REM sleep. It can have a very positive impact on our energy levels and help us to be more productive.  

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which is better, REM or deep sleep?

Both REM and deep sleep are important for good sleep. A healthy balance of 25% of the total sleeping time should be maintained for both sleep cycles.

2. How much deep sleep do you need?

Most adults require at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Out of it, an individual should have at least 2 hours of deep sleep. 

3. What is a healthy amount of REM sleep per night?

A healthy REM sleep should be 2 hours of the total time slept.

4. What does a healthy sleep cycle look like?

A healthy sleep cycle should have 4 non-REM and 1 REM stage. 

5. What is the healthiest sleep pattern?

The healthiest sleep pattern is one that which REM and deep sleep share at least 2 hours of total sleep.

Kendra Reed

Dr. Kendra Reed is a dedicated general medicine physician with 7 years of clinical experience. After graduating from medical school, she completed her residency in internal medicine, developing a well-rounded skillset in diagnosing and treating a diverse range of conditions. Patients appreciate Dr. Reed's warm bedside manner and commitment to providing comprehensive, personalized care. In addition to her clinical work, she is actively involved in community outreach programs, educating the public on important health topics. Dr. Reed is known for her ability to establish trusting relationships with her patients and help them achieve their wellness goals.

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