REM Sleep is vital to your health. We look at how you can get more.
There has been a great deal of research into sleep recently that has highlighted the importance of sleep and particularly a stage of sleep called the REM state. Unfortunately researchers have found that around 55% of the population sleep for an average of 7 hours or less.
REM Sleep Deprivation Effects
One study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has shown that sleep apnea during REM sleep is associated with type 2 diabetes. Other studies show increases in obesity and blood pressure with lack of sleep. Sleep is also important for memory and in regulating emotional responses throughout the day. Not surprisingly another study has shown that better sleep is associated with improved academic success.
How can we get more REM sleep?
Here are our top tips for getting more REM sleep.
1. Stop Snoring
Studies have shown that sleep apnea significantly reduces REM sleep. The blocking of the upper airway due to the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapsing (snoring) can cause brief arousals from sleep and fragmented sleep. This results in REM sleep deprivation. One of the best steps you can take to reduce snoring is to reduce weight. For other suggestions download the following PDF http://www.aasmnet.org/Resources/FactSheets/SleepApnea.pdf
2. Get More Sleep
Sounds obvious but getting just one or two hours extra sleep a night can have a dramatic increase on the amount of REM sleep you get. The length of the REM cycles increases each hour into your sleep. So if you sleep 8 hours you will get significantly more REM sleep than if you sleep only 7 hours.
3. Meditate More
If your problem is not so much getting to bed on time but in actually getting to sleep then learning deep relaxation techniques during the day can improve your sleep at night according to a research paper titled “Effects of Mediation on Sleep in Individuals with Chronic Insomnia” published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The study found that with meditation there were also improvements in total sleep time, sleep efficiency and sleep quality. As an added benefit, depression also decreased in patients who practiced meditation.
4. Stop Watching Television
Researchers were surprised to find that watching television actually makes people “stay up late”. No surprise to us! So if you can not work less hours you should be able to limit your Television viewing and get more sleep.
5. Take Naps During The Day
Our brains are not stable emotionally during the day with constant changes in emotional reactivity. Research has shown that when people took from 60 to 90 minute naps (with REM sleep), then they were more receptive to happy facial expressions. People who did not nap displayed a marked increase in reaction to anger and fear. See Abstract: 0379 “Sleep Refreshes Human Emotional Reactivity” – American Academy of Sleep Medicine. See our blog post on the benefits of napping and siestas for more information.
So to get more REM sleep our suggestions are to limit television, go on a meditation course and if you can take naps during the day (maybe during lunch time if you have to work).
What works best for you in getting to sleep at night?