How Much Rem Sleep Are You Supposed To Get?

How Much REM Sleep Are You Supposed to Get?

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is a crucial component of your sleep cycle, and the amount you need can vary based on age and individual needs. On average, adults are supposed to get about 20-25% of their total sleep time in REM sleep. This typically translates to about 90 to 120 minutes of REM sleep per night for someone who sleeps 7 to 8 hours.

Understanding REM Sleep

To fully grasp why REM sleep is so important, it’s necessary to understand the various sleep stages. Sleep is divided into two main types: non-REM sleep and REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is further broken down into three stages, each of which has distinct characteristics and serves different functions for the body.

During the night, your body cycles through these sleep stages multiple times. A complete cycle lasts about 90 minutes and consists of progressing through non-REM stages and culminating in REM sleep. As the night progresses, the duration of REM sleep increases with each cycle. By the end of the night, your body spends a larger portion of each sleep cycle in REM sleep.

The Functions of REM Sleep

REM sleep is often considered the most restorative phase of sleep. This stage is essential for several reasons:

Memory Consolidation: REM sleep plays a key role in consolidating short-term memories into long-term memories. It helps in organizing information that you’ve acquired throughout the day.

Emotional Regulation: This stage of sleep is also crucial for emotional regulation. It helps process emotional experiences, reducing stress and improving mood.

Brain Development: For children and adolescents, REM sleep is particularly important for brain development.

Creativity: Studies have shown that REM sleep is linked to innovative thinking and problem-solving. The dreams that occur during this stage can inspire creative thoughts and solutions.

Factors Affecting REM Sleep Duration


Age is a significant factor that affects how much REM sleep you get. Newborns spend about 50% of their sleep time in REM sleep, which gradually decreases as they grow older. By the time individuals reach adulthood, REM sleep usually accounts for about 20-25% of total sleep time. Older adults often experience a decrease in total sleep time, including the duration of REM sleep.

Sleep Quality

The quality of your sleep also impacts the duration of REM sleep. Fragmented sleep or conditions like sleep apnea can limit the amount of REM sleep you get. The more uninterrupted your sleep, the better the chances that you’ll go through complete sleep cycles, which include ample REM sleep.

Behavioral Factors

Behavioral choices, like alcohol and caffeine consumption, can affect your REM sleep. Alcohol might make you feel drowsy initially, but it can fragment your sleep later in the night, reducing REM sleep. On the other hand, caffeine is a stimulant that can delay the onset of sleep, affecting the overall duration, including your REM sleep.

Mental Health

Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can either increase or decrease REM sleep. For example, people with depression often enter REM sleep sooner and stay in it longer, but the quality of that REM sleep may be compromised.

How to Improve Your REM Sleep

Recognizing the importance of REM sleep is the first step toward making changes that can improve it. Here are some steps you can take to enhance the quality and duration of your REM sleep:

Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule

Consistency is key when it comes to sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to go through the natural sleep cycles that include REM sleep.

Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment

Your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary. Keep it dark, quiet, and cool. Consider investing in blackout curtains to keep external light out. Using white noise machines can help drown out disruptive sounds, and maintaining a room temperature between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep.

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Mind Your Diet

What you consume can significantly impact your sleep quality. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Opt for a light snack if you’re hungry at night; a small portion of complex carbohydrates or protein can promote relaxation.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity promotes better sleep. Aim for at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week, but try to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Stress can be a significant barrier to good sleep. Practices such as meditation, deep-breathing exercises, and yoga can help reduce stress levels. Journaling can also be a beneficial way to offload your thoughts and reduce nighttime anxiety.

Avoid Electronic Devices

The blue light emitted by phones, tablets, and computers can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. Aim to switch off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

If you still find yourself struggling to get sufficient REM sleep despite making lifestyle changes, it might be time to consult a healthcare provider. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia require specific treatments that a healthcare provider can offer.

The Role of Dreams in REM Sleep

During REM sleep, our brains are incredibly active, and most of our dreaming occurs in this stage. The content of your dreams can sometimes give you an indication of the quality of your REM sleep. Frequent, vivid dreams might suggest you’re getting sufficient REM sleep. However, nightmares and frequent awakenings might indicate underlying issues that need addressing, such as stress or traumatic experiences.

A Closer Look at Sleep Cycles

It’s worth noting that your body cycles through various stages of sleep multiple times a night. As mentioned earlier, a complete sleep cycle typically lasts about 90 minutes, and you go through several of these cycles each night. Initially, more time is spent in non-REM sleep, particularly in the deeper stages essential for physical restoration. As the night goes on, REM sleep periods become longer. Interruptions during the night can reset these cycles, often resulting in decreased REM sleep.

The Science Behind REM Sleep Deprivation

Understanding REM sleep deprivation sheds light on why this stage is so crucial:

Cognitive Impairment: Lack of REM sleep significantly affects cognitive functions like learning, memory, and problem-solving. You might notice difficulty focusing, remembering things, or making decisions when deprived of REM sleep.

Emotional Instability: Insufficient REM sleep can make you more irritable and emotionally sensitive. Emotional regulation processes that occur during REM sleep are crucial for maintaining a balanced mood.

Physical Health Risks: Chronic REM sleep deprivation is linked to serious health issues like cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes. It’s not just your brain that suffers; your entire body can be affected.

Immune System Weakening: Extended periods of REM sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses.

Tracking Your REM Sleep

With the advancement of technology, tracking your sleep has never been easier. Many wearable devices and smartphones come equipped with sleep tracking features that provide insights into your sleep stages, including REM sleep. While these gadgets aren’t as accurate as a professional sleep study, they can give you a general idea of your sleep patterns and help you make necessary improvements.

Professional Evaluations for REM Sleep

For those who suspect their REM sleep might be inadequate or experience symptoms affecting their daily life, a professional sleep evaluation might be warranted. Sleep studies, often conducted in a sleep lab, provide a comprehensive analysis of your sleep stages, including REM sleep. This can help diagnose sleep disorders and develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Understanding Dreams and Nightmares

Our dreams can be a fascinating way to gauge our REM sleep quality. Frequently occurring vivid dreams often suggest sufficient REM sleep. On the other hand, recurrent nightmares could indicate stress, anxiety, or other underlying mental health conditions. Understanding your dream patterns and discussing them with a healthcare provider can offer valuable insights into your overall sleep health.

Addressing Common REM Sleep Myths

There are many myths surrounding REM sleep. For instance, some believe that more REM sleep is always better. In reality, sleep patterns vary from person to person, and what matters most is the overall quality of your sleep. Another common myth is that if you don’t remember your dreams, you’re not getting enough REM sleep. In truth, many people don’t recall dreams but still get ample REM sleep.

Finishing Thoughts

Getting sufficient REM sleep is a cornerstone of overall health and well-being. It aids in cognitive functions, emotional stability, and physical health. By understanding what affects your REM sleep and making appropriate lifestyle changes, you can improve your sleep quality significantly. Remember, sleep is a vital component of your health, and it deserves just as much attention and care as your diet and exercise routines. If you’re struggling to achieve adequate REM sleep despite making lifestyle adjustments, consider seeking professional advice to assess and address any potential underlying issues.


  • Dominic Johnson

    Hello! I’m Dominic Johnson, the whimsical wizard behind the world of sleep at With a background in Sleep Psychology and a quirky love for all things dozy and dreamy, I bring a sprinkle of fun to bedtime blues. I've spent my career unraveling the mysteries of the Sandman, turning dense science into cozy bedtime stories. When I'm not buried in research papers or testing the fluffiness of the latest pillows, I'm usually found playing impromptu lullabies on my old guitar for my twin daughters or teaching my labrador, Rocket, new tricks. My approach to sleep is simple: blend science with a touch of magic and a hearty laugh.

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