We’re often looking for ways to boost our mental and physical wellbeing. Exercise. Diet. Hydration. Mindfulness. But what if we told you that one of the biggest contributors to a healthy lifestyle is doing, well, nothing at all. Yep, we’re talking about the land of snod.
Sleep allows your mind and body to recharge. And when you get enough of it, sleep can promote all the good stuff: energy, homeostasis, cognition, concentration, memory, immunity and mood.
REM sleep, in particular, is an incredibly important sleep stage that’s linked to dreaming and the formation of memories.
So, let’s break down the stages and look at how to increase your REM sleep (we guarantee it’ll make you want to get horizontal in a soft and squishy place).
What Are The Stages Of Sleep?
There are two types of sleep: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM), which are broken up into a series of stages.
NREM Stage 1
NREM stage 1 is when we transition from wakefulness to sleep. This only lasts several minutes, associated with slower breathing and heart rate.
NREM Stage 2
This is another period of light sleep, just before you enter a deeper sleep. Your heart rate and breathing slow even more, and you experience a drop in temperature.
NREM Stage 3
Ah, deep sleep. Everything is slow in this stage – heart rate, breathing, brainwaves – and your muscles are incredibly relaxed. This stage is also where the magic happens, commonly associated with body recovery and growth.
What is REM sleep?
But then there’s a plot twist. After about 90 minutes of sleep, you enter REM. So, what happens in REM?
This is a period where brain wave activity, heart rate and breathing increase, more closely resembling wakefulness. Everything speeds up a little (yet at the same time, your muscles are temporarily paralysed).
REM sleep is associated with vivid dreaming, essential for learning, consolidating experiences, creativity and memory.
For most people, REM sleep makes up around 25% of sleep, and some studies suggest that a lack of REM sleep can contribute to health problems. But on the flip side, people who spend significant time in REM sleep may have a greater ability to read emotions and react to stressful situations.
We constantly cycle through these phases, with the REM sleep period growing longer and longer throughout the night.
So, as you can see, REM sleep is a prime part of your nightly zzz’s. It’s little wonder why sleep scientists propose that it’s not just the quantity of sleep that counts – but the quality.
So, How Do You Increase REM Sleep And Dreaming?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to know whether you’ve been in REM.
But if you wake up in the morning and think to yourself, geez, that was a vivid and wacky dream. Chances are, you’ve had a healthy dose of REM.
Researchers and sleep scientists still don’t know exactly why we dream. Maybe it’s to deal with emotions. Or maybe it’s a creative outlet. Or perhaps it’s to aid our memories…
There are so many theories on what dreams are – yet none are widely agreed on.
But one thing that’s widely accepted is that REM sleep is essential to our health, wellbeing and functioning – dreams and all.
Here are some quick tips for boosting your REM…
- Skip the caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant, so having it too late in the day can shift the behaviour of REM sleep, and ultimately contribute to insomnia.
- Avoid excess alcohol
While alcohol may help you fall asleep quickly, turns out, the quality of sleep isn’t the same. Yep - excess alcohol can reduce REM sleep (is it any wonder why we always feel so tired after a night of indulgence?)
- Have a routine
Having a regular bedtime routine will help you destress and transition your brain from day to night. This can improve your sleep and increase the amount of REM.
- Mood lighting
Melatonin is a sleep inducing hormone that’s triggered by darkness. But the modern use of electricity, phones and devices leave us exposed to high light levels well into the evening, altering our melatonin levels and body clock. By avoiding bright lights before bed, you can help your body ease into the sleep cycle.
- Get moving
It’s widely agreed that exercise and good sleep go hand in hand. Adding just 30 minutes a day can significantly impact sleep quality and duration.
Bonus tip – try Lion’s Mane mushroom
You might not read about it in many mainstream sleep studies, but early research and anecdotal evidence suggest that Lion’s Mane mushroom has a positive impact REM sleep.
Lion’s Mane is a natural nootropic or “smart drug” that enhances the cognitive power of the brain. Nootropics work by increasing factors like memory, creativity, mood, attention and focus. So, it makes sense that this little-known medicinal mushroom plays a role in our sleep cycle.
Here at Natura Mushrooms, we couldn’t write a blog about REM sleep without touching on Lion’s Mane. We’ve been using it regularly to enhance our sleep cycles, with a noticeable difference in our dream recollection.
Some of our customers are noticing the difference, too...
“I started taking Lion’s Mane in the mornings, as my work requires a high degree of creativity - and I soon noticed a substantial difference in my focus and output each day. Over time, I began to take Lion’s Mane before bed to see if I noticed any more positive changes. Remarkably, my dreams became frequent and vivid! I regularly find myself saying to my partner, “I had the best dream last night…” and I’m 100% putting this down to taking Lion’s Mane. The best part? I wake up each day feeling rested and energised.”
Shane and Ash