REM sleep

How Do I Know If I'm Getting Enough REM Sleep?

Written by: Bethany Gemmell


Time to read 2 min

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is frequently mentioned in advice regarding sleep, but it's still rather unclear to most people. REM sleep is hailed as better quality, "deep" sleep. It is the goal we strive for in order to get a good night's sleep that restores our energy and helps us feel recharged. It is difficult to track what kind of sleep you're getting when sleep is an unconscious, involuntary act. REM sleep is hailed as better quality, "deep" sleep. Many people suffer from light sleep and are easily awoken during the night.

The Importance of REM Sleep for Quality Rest

Lighter sleepers can sleep for several hours, while still not getting enough of the quality sleep they need. On the other end of the spectrum, heavy sleepers often wake up feeling tired, regardless of how much sleep they've gotten. Sleeping does not automatically translate to getting REM sleep. Knowing if you're getting enough is important in order to improve the quality of your REM sleep.

What Actually is REM Sleep?

REM sleep is the final stage of the sleep cycle. This stage is the deepest stage of the sleep cycle. It gets its name from your eyes moving around rapidly at this stage of your sleep, without vision signals being sent to the brain. It takes around 90 minutes to get to this stage of the sleep cycle. Your body, as well as your vision, becomes paralysed. Your brain is however highly active during this stage.

Multiple proteins are produced by the brain with many beneficial qualities. These allow your body to heal from the wear and tear of everyday life. The muscles and skin, for example, recover as the muscles relax and less cortisol, a stress hormone, is released. Your brain is prompted to relax, which helps form the brain's capacity to create core memories and retain learned information. This sleep stage helps put your brain into gear for daytime function and processing information during the following day.

How Do I Know If I'm Getting Enough REM Sleep?

The easiest way to tell is if you're suffering from sleep deprivation. Tiredness and poor brain function during the day is the biggest giveaway that you're not getting deep enough sleep.

Causes of sleep deprivation include, but are not limited to:

  • A diagnosed sleep disorder
  • Taking antidepressant (SSRI) medications
  • Excess use of alcohol, caffeine, or cannabis
  • Various pain medications
  • Smoking
  • Hot or cold temperatures

Recognizing the Hidden Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Lack of quality sleep can manifest itself in ways other than feeling tired. Poor cognitive ability during the day, such as poor memory or slowness to learn information is a sign of this. Feeling unwell or under the weather can be a sign you're not getting the restorative qualities of REM sleep. See our guide to sleep deprivation signs to learn more about these hidden signs.

If you're not practicing good sleep hygiene, keeping track of how you feel in terms of energy before and after better sleep hygiene will tell you if your lifestyle and sleep schedule lacks REM sleep.

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