How to Sleep and get the Best REM Activity
The circadian rhythm controls your cycles of sleepiness and alertness. You may have noticed that you feel a bit drowsy long about the middle of the afternoon, and then you’re more alert in the early evening. After that, the cycle starts to move toward being sleepy, until the early hours of the morning – about 1 am to 2 am. Then, between 4 am and 6 am, you’re again heading into a period of sleep.
So, knowing these cycles, you can align yourself to get the best sleep by going to bed during the height of a sleep cycle. Also, you can manipulate the circadian cycles, if you know how. Bright light tends to wake the body up. So, dimming the lights helps you to cycle down to sleep. Some people even take to wearing sunglasses in the evening to further enhance this effect.
Melatonin is the body’s natural sleep hormone; so taking some in the early evening can improve your sleep. If you feel the need for sleeping pills, consider consulting a doctor first; you don’t want to become dependent on them for sleep.
In addition, there are natural methods for improving your sleep. A warm bath will slightly raise your body’s temperature, and then a drop in body temperature helps to induce sleep. Also, a bit of exercise prior to settling down for the evening can also help you fall asleep. Once you are asleep, you move through essentially five stages of sleep. Technically, they’re called the four stages and REM sleep. Stage 1 is simple drowsiness; 2 is light sleep, and then 3 and 4 are deep sleep.
After that, comes REM sleep, which is very similar to stage 1. At this point, you’re sleeping very lightly, but you’re dreaming. This stage gets its name from Rapid Eye Movement (REM), which occurs when you’re dreaming. Essentially, you’re watching the dream play out before your eyes. After that, you cycle back through stage 2, 3 and 4, and then REM sleep again. Typically, you go through about four REM cycles each night, and it’s not unusual to be dreaming right before you wake up in the morning.
REM sleep is important to your mind for a number of factors. It allows you to process and consolidate emotions, memories, and reduce stress. Some researchers also believe it’s vital in the learning process and brain development. In terms of getting more and better REM sleep, the easiest way is to sleep a bit longer in the morning.
Deep sleep periods
One other aspect of the sleep cycles is that the deep sleep periods (stages 3 and 4) are longer in the early part of the night, and the REM stage is shorter. As the night progresses, these switch. So, by the time morning comes, your REM stage is at its longest. By increasing the time you sleep in the morning by as little as half an hour you can greatly improve and lengthen your REM sleep.
Next, there is simply getting enough sleep overall. The sleep stages exist in a delicate balance. If you don’t get enough deep sleep, your body will start to reduce the amount of REM sleep it goes through in order to compensate.
So, going to sleep in mid to late evening, when your circadian cycle is in sleep mode, avoiding stimulates – food, drinks or mental stimulation – and getting to sleep at a reasonable hour will insure you get enough sleep. In so doing, you can help to maximize the time your brain has to go into REM sleep.