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How do you improve your REM sleep? Good sleep starts during the day

Some nights you sleep better than others. That is why you do not feel happy, fresh and rested every day. With a good night’s sleep, you go through all sleep phases several times. Every sleep cycle ends with REM sleep, also known as dream sleep. We asked neurology professor Steven Laureys how you can improve REM sleep. He recently published The No-Nonsense Sleep Book with scientifically based sleep advice for every age and every problem.

First of all: what exactly is REM sleep?

“REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. It is an active sleep phase in which you dream. You have four to five ‘sleep trains’ every night where you go from light sleep to deep sleep and then REM sleep. Towards the morning there are longer phases of REM sleep “The electrical activity of your brain is slower in deep sleep. During REM sleep, your brain becomes more active again. Your muscles are paralyzed during REM sleep and you have rapid eye movements as if you were watching a movie screen.”

Is REM sleep more important than deep sleep?

“Both stages of sleep are important. For physical recovery and metabolism, your memory, your emotional stability and your immune system. You spend most of the night in light sleep, 10 to 25 percent in deep sleep and about 25 percent in REM sleep “Deep sleep is the most restorative, where our body can heal itself and our minds can e cigarettes store for more information. During this phase your bones and muscles also grow. Our consciousness, your heart rate, and your metabolism are at its lowest. You get a natural detox and toxic waste products are removed, reducing your risk of dementia.Deep sleep will also help prevent and cure diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and depression.

If we are disturbed during deep sleep, we are more likely to feel grumpy and disoriented. It is in deep sleep that sleepwalking and night terrors are most common, and children start wetting the bed. REM sleep is also important for healthy brain development and making new brain connections (half of the 16 hours babies sleep is REM sleep), emotional processing and memory. Research also shows that good REM sleep reduces the risk of depression and anxiety and improves intellectual function, as well as lowering blood pressure.”

Nowadays a lot of people sleep with an activity tracker. Many of these devices also allow you to see how you slept. If this indicates that you have had little REM sleep, how can you improve it?

“Those trackers give a good picture, but are not all equally accurate (my favorite and the best choice compared to our formal sleep studies in the lab is the Oura Ring). For better sleep, the best way to improve your sleep is to work on healthy lifestyle habits.

Develop a sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every day – even on weekends – and get up at about the same time.

Later in the day (after 2 p.m.), don’t drink caffeine and don’t smoke cigarettes.

Avoid alcohol in the evening, which makes you sleepy but disrupts your sleep, especially your REM sleep.

Before going to sleep, take a warm bath, listen to relaxing music or read a book.

Get plenty of exercise and exercise, but not too soon before going to bed.

Create a nice bedroom: dark (wear a sleeping mask if necessary), quiet, not too hot and not too cold and no television or screens in the bedroom.

If you can’t fall asleep, don’t lie awake. Do something quiet until you are sleepy. Try binaural beats or a guided sleep meditation from one of the many apps such as Petit Bambou or the breathing exercises of the Moonbird wearable) until you are sleepy.

Replace your old pillows and your mattress if necessary.

Eat healthy! With a diet rich in fiber you will improve your weight, but also the quality of your sleep.

Finally, what do you think is the most important thing to achieve a better night’s sleep and wake up fitter?

“Sleep well starts during the day. Try meditation or yoga in addition to sports. Not only is this a great way to focus mentally, but it will also improve your sleep quality. Studies show that those who practice mindfulness for eight weeks sleep more and better. “