Alaska Sleep Education Center

Make Sure You Reach REM Sleep

Posted by Paisley Hansen on Aug 25, 2020 5:25:00 AM

Getting into REM sleep.

Getting enough sleep is an issue for many, no matter what their lifestyle is. What can make matters even worse is that getting poor sleep can leave you feeling exhausted and out of it, which is the last thing that you might want in today's busy and fast-paced world. While life can get in the way of getting a good night's rest at times, the reality is that it can be easy to improve the quality and quantity of sleep you get with a few tips.

Aim To Eat a Balanced Diet

What some don't realize is that their diet can play a huge role in their ability to get good rest when they go to bed. Part of this is due to the fact that some foods like sugar, bad fats or refined carbs can cause inflammation in the body. This inflammation can increase your sensitivity to pain, which can make it more difficult to sleep, and can also have an impact on your ability to fall into a deep sleep cycle, as well. While trying to limit foods that can cause inflammation, it can also be beneficial to eat health and sleep promoting foods as well. Some foods that are good for you and good for helping you sleep include cherry juice, chamomile tea, salmon, almonds, turkey and bananas.

Try Supplements

Along with tweaking your diet, including some supplements into your daily health regimen can also be helpful for promoting good sleep. This can be true whether you opt to take a multivitamin that helps boost energy during the day, so that you feel more primed for sleep at night, or if you choose an herbal supplement that helps promote sleep. Because there are so many different kinds of supplements that may be beneficial, though, it can be a good idea to do some research by reading things like le-vel thrive reviews before deciding on one.

Get Plenty of Exercise

Another effective way to help ensure that you sleep deeply at night is to make sure that you get plenty of physical activity into your day. If you don't already work out on a regular basis, finding ways to fit more exercise into your lifestyle could have a powerful impact on your sleep quality. One way that exercise helps is that it relieves stress, which can often be a culprit behind insomnia and poor sleep quality. Exercise can also be helpful for sleep because it can cause a spike in your body temperature. After your body heats up, it will then quickly try to cool down, and a cooler body temperature often leads to better sleep. Additionally, the good news is that it doesn't matter what kind of exercise you do, as long as you get your heart rate up for 15 to 20 minutes a day, it can help you rest better at night.

Avoid Sleep-Destroying Beverages

Two of the most disruptive things to deep sleep are caffeine and alcohol. While many are aware that caffeine can disrupt their sleep, they may not realize that it can stay active in their system, and that even if they drank a caffeinated beverage multiple hours before bedtime, it could still make it hard for them to fall asleep. This is due in part to caffeine's stimulant qualities, and the fact that it can take the liver up to several hours to fully process it.

Alcohol can also have a major negative impact on your ability to rest, even though some may think of it as a great way to unwind at the end of the day. While alcohol is a depressant, and it may make you feel more relaxed and at ease temporarily, the reality is that it can also disrupt your body's natural sleep cycles. This means that even though you may be able to fall asleep easily after having a few drinks, you may find yourself struggling to stay asleep throughout the night. Even though you may not be able to cut alcohol out of your lifestyle completely, learning to limit your intake could save your sleep.

Have a Relaxing Nighttime Ritual

In some cases, the reason you may not be able to fall asleep at night is due to the fact that you don't have a relaxing nighttime ritual. If you're doing stressful activities right before bed, it could make it hard for you to tune out once your head does hit the pillow. Also, there are some activities that may seem like they are a good way to calm down before bed, but actually aren't. This includes spending time on your cell phone, and watching TV. Even though these are passive activities that don't cause you to expend any energy, the reality is that the blue light from their screens can actually signal to your brain that it is time to stay awake, making it hard for you to drift off when you want to.

If you truly want to unwind before bed, it can be a good idea to start a nightly ritual including things that will actually calm down your nervous system. Deep breathing exercises can be a quick and effective way to calm your nerves and clear your mind, as can meditation. If those aren't for you, doing something like taking a hot bath or doing gentle stretches can be a simple way to relax and refresh your body before bed. Reading and writing, especially in a journal are two more activities that can be effective for getting your mind in the right space to drift off into a deep sleep.

Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment

While their daily habits may be the cause of poor sleep for some, for others it could be a poor sleeping environment. If your room is too hot, noisy, or bright, it could make it difficult for you to sleep. Having an uncomfortable bed or bedding can also be disruptive to sleep, as well. To cultivate a space that is great for getting good rest, you should take steps to ensure that your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet. Black out curtains or blinds can be helpful for this, as can a sleep mask if curtains or blinds aren't an option. If noise is what's bothering you, noise cancelling panels can be installed on your door, or other areas of your room. Thick drapes can help with noise as well. If you don't have air conditioning using a fan or a small, portable, water-powered air conditioner can be helpful for keeping your bedroom cool.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is important for your health, and while many may be aware of this, they may still struggle to get good sleep at night. The good news is, though, that with a few tips like tweaking your diet and improving your sleeping environment, you can start improving your sleep quality today.

In order to feel most rested, you need to ensure that you’re completing at least 4-5 sleep cycles a night.  Here are some simple tips to ensure that your sleep is as productive as possible.

  • Avoid caffeine before bedtime. Stimulating the brain before sleep can cause insomnia.
  • Avoid antidepressants. Some antidepressants can block Rem sleep.
  • Avoid smoking. Smokers have a lower rate of REM sleep and often wake up after 3 to 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal. 
  • Avoid alcohol. Consuming an alcoholic beverage before bed keeps sleepers in the lighter stages of sleep. 
  • Use your sleep cycle as an alarm clock. Since sleep cycles last for 90 minutes, set your morning alarm to wake you up after the last completed cycle.  For example, if you’re going to bed at 10:30 p.m., and need to wake up at 6:30 a.m., set your alarm clock to 6 a.m. instead to account for 90-minute sleep cycle intervals.  Even though you lose 30 minutes of sleep, your body will feel more rested having wakened after completing REM sleep. 
  • Follow a set bedtime and wake up time. If you must wake up at 6:30 a.m., either start going to bed at 11 p.m.  or 9:30 p.m.  Follow this schedule and see if your sleep improves.

There are also a number of free and paid apps available for your iOS and Android phones that use your body’s sleep cycle to set your morning alarm, such as Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock.  Simply search for “sleep clock” and you will find whatever you’re looking for.


If you’re struggling with getting enough sleep, or you’re feeling groggy and disorientated in the morning, you may have bigger issues than just understanding your sleep cycles.  The best thing you can do is visit your local sleep specialist.  If you live in Alaska, click on the link below to find a sleep specialist closest to you.

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Topics: REM sleep, sleep hygiene, getting better sleep

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