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closeup of woman sleeping on her side in rem sleep cycle

Is Too Much REM Sleep a Bad Thing?

You are probably already aware that, as you sleep, you go through different cycles and depths of sleep. Perhaps the best-known of these in the common everyday culture is that which we call REM sleep. This stands for rapid-eye-movement, and it is one of the most important kinds of sleep that we go through each night, as we are about to see. But is it possible to get too much REM sleep? And just how much of it do we really need? Let’s take a deep dive into this issue to see what we can uncover.

What Is REM Sleep?

As you sleep, you go through varying depths of sleep, and each of them form an important part of the overall sleep cycle. One of the deeper elements of sleep is REM. This is the time during which you will dream, and it is also when most of the deep, restorative work happens, so it is clearly important that you are getting the right amount of REM sleep each and every night. It’s called REM because of the rapid eye movements associated with it. As you sleep in this state, and as you dream, your eyes actually move around underneath your closed eyelids at a rapid pace. If you were to watch someone sleeping and notice that they are doing this, you can pinpoint when they have entered REM and started dreaming! And because of its restorative features, REM is clearly a really useful thing to have as part of your sleep. It is also essential in the transfer of short-term memories onto the temporal lobe, so that they become long-term memories. As such, it’s vital if you are trying to learn or study anything. The benefits of REM sleep are clear. But how much of it do we really need?

How Much REM Sleep Is Enough?

The amount that you will get will change each night and will vary greatly over the course of your life as well. However, for most healthy, average adults, there will usually be something around 90 minutes of REM sleep each night. However, that doesn’t happen in one period, but at different times throughout the night, so we are talking about 90 minutes in total over that whole time. You have it in different periods for the simple fact that you cycle through four stages of sleep repeatedly throughout the night, with REM being the fourth and deepest stage of all. Also, the amount of REM sleep you get will increase with each cycle. In your first sleep cycle of the night, you will only get a few minutes of it, perhaps. But later on in the night, after a few cycles have taken place, you might get an hour or so in your last cycle. So as long as you are getting the proper 7-9 hours of sleep each night, you should be getting enough REM sleep. However, there are things that can inhibit this, such as staying up late, drinking alcohol, stress, and a variety of other factors.

How Much Is Too Much?

So you might not have worried about this before, but there is actually such a thing as getting too much REM sleep, and as it happens it can be something that affects you negatively in a few key ways. So what would count as too much REM sleep, and what can you actually hope to do about it in order to rectify the issue? Usually, around 20% of your sleep is going to be spent in REM, which is just right for you to have the normal benefits of that. Generally, if you ever get above, say, 25% or so, it’s because your body has realized that you were sleep deprived, and is trying to catch you up by getting much more of the deep, restorative rest that happens in the REM state. So if you are having more REM than usual, it might simply be that, and in that case would not necessarily be a cause for concern - except for the fact that you should try to avoid being sleep deprived in future if possible. However, if you are regularly having a lot of sleep, or you are waking up a lot during the night and remembering a lot of dreams, then you might be experiencing something known as REM rebound.

What Is REM Rebound?

This is the term for when you are experiencing more of the REM state than usual. That can either be because you are sleeping overall for longer than usual, or because you are just having more of that deeper state for whatever reason. In either case, it’s important that you are aware of when this is happening. You will probably feel quite foggy, and restless, and you might even have other symptoms such as headaches. REM rebound is usually the result of being overly stressed or very sleep-deprived, so you should take it as a warning sign that something needs to change, and fast. Once you get back to normal with your sleep habits, you will find that the amount of REM goes back to normal too, and that is absolutely what you are hoping for here.

How To Avoid REM Rebound

If you want to make sure you are avoiding that, you simply need to do all you can to get as much sleep as possible throughout the night on a regular basis, but without going too far beyond the nine hour mark. So, avoid alcohol and cut down on caffeine, make sure that you have a comfortable mattress and bedframe, and set yourself a bedtime that you stick to. All of that is going to help profoundly with getting more high-quality sleep. And then you will find that you are not going to have too much REM sleep, meaning you will generally feel restored and well. As you might imagine, this is an important thing to think about, so make sure that you are getting your right amount of sleep every night.
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