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Sleeping is one of the simplest, most effective ways to stay physically and mentally healthy. As an adult, you should get an average of eight hours of sleep a night, though it’s also important to clarify that not all sleep is created equal.

Ever heard of REM sleep? This is the stage of your sleep cycle in which you experience the deepest type of sleep — and the most vivid dreams. REM sleep is characterized by almost complete physical stillness and peak brain activity, and is vital to cognitive and bodily functions.

So, how much REM sleep should you get? Read on to find out.

Sleep Stages Explained

Before delving into REM sleep, let’s take a quick look at the bigger picture.

A typical sleep cycle is formed of four stages, with the first two also called “light sleep”, the third “deep sleep”, and the last one REM — acronym for “rapid eye movement”.

The lighter type of sleep is the one that you enter at the beginning of your sleep cycle: you’re not awake but not fully asleep yet. Your body moves occasionally, and you might notice a few twitches. During this sleep stage, you are more susceptible to being awakened by something like a sudden noise or someone calling you.

While all of these stages are important to guarantee a restful sleep, the lion’s share of the work goes to the REM stage. During this phase, which can last from ten minutes to an hour, your entire body (except for your eyes and breathing muscles) is virtually paralyzed, whereas your brain works overtime.

REM sleep is essential to ensuring the development of cognitive functions as well as helping your body recover and get ready for the day ahead.

Sweet Dreams

While dreaming can occur during all sleep stages, it is the REM dreaming that’s the most vivid and intense. If, when talking to a friend about a dream you’ve had, you find yourself saying something like “I promise it did feel SO REAL!”, chance are that you had that dream during your REM stage.

Modern medicine and psychotherapy have placed a lot of attention on the importance and significance of dreams. Even though this is still a fairly mysterious and incomplete area of study, it’s clear that dreaming has a lot to do with processing and managing emotions, events, and memories.

Alongside these crucial cognitive functions, REM sleep plays a central role in certain physical processes, such as protein synthesis and immune system consolidation.

Because of all these findings, the emphasis on the importance of REM sleep has been very high in the past century.

How Much Rem Sleep Should You Get?

Now that it’s clear why REM sleep is so important for your physical and mental wellbeing, you might be wondering how much of it you need.

Let’s just take a quick step back, before we try to answer your question. The sleep stages described above are all part of one standard sleep cycle. If you sleep for around eight hours, you will go through an average of three to five sleep cycles.

Experts seem to agree that if 20-25% of your sleep is REM sleep, then you are probably well on your way to getting a good amount of REM sleep. How much is that, though, you may wonder?

Roughly, you’re looking at 90 minutes per night. As with anything, this can of course change according to many factors. Age, for example, is a huge one. Newborn babies, in fact, tend to spend half of each sleep cycle in REM sleep.

This is easy to explain: their brains are developing at lightning speed, creating neural connections and learning about the world. Spending so much time in deep sleep is one of nature’s ways to help with the physical and cognitive development of babies and children.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Rem Sleep?

This is still a poorly explored area of research, but recent studies seem to have shown that there is a small correlation between too much REM sleep and depression.

The reasons behind this are not clear, but empirical studies have observed that many people with depression have longer REM sleep stages. An explanation could come from the idea that, because REM sleep strengthens memories, it may contribute to remembering unpleasant, even traumatic events.

Adding to this, it’s also interesting to note that several antidepressants suppress REM sleep, again perhaps as a way to prevent the negative memories from resurfacing.

Don’t get alarmed if you’re thinking you’re spending too much time in the REM stage, though. This whole topic still needs a lot more research, and the circumstances around longer REM sleep stages are not crystal clear yet.

What About REM Sleep Early in the Night?

As we mentioned, REM sleep is the final stage of each sleep cycle. This means that you routinely get most of your REM sleep quite late in the night. So, why do you sometimes wake up early in the night, perhaps frightened by a vivid nightmare?

An unusually early REM sleep stage often means that you’ve had a tiring day following a night of little to no sleep. Your body is trying to make up for the REM sleep that it missed the previous night by going through the initial sleep phases very quickly and getting to the REM stage — the most important and restful — as early as possible.

So, how can you maximize your chances of getting a good night’s sleep, every night? If you’ve tried different tips and tricks but nothing worked, you can give sleep gummies a go.

Sleep Well to Live Well

How much REM sleep should you get to live a happy, healthy life, is no longer a mystery, as we’ve explained in this article.

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