REM Sleep: Stages, Non-REM, And REM Disorder

While you sleep, your brain moves through five different stages. One of these active stages is REM, otherwise known as the rapid eye movement sleep.

During the REM phase, the eyes move rapidly in different directions. The other four stages are known as NREM, or non-REM sleep.

REM Sleep Explained In A Nutshell

Within the first 90 minutes of falling asleep, you enter REM sleep, and the sleep cycle repeats throughout the night. Therefore, REM sleep happens several times throughout the night.

REM sleep makes up to 25% of your sleep cycle (that is a general rule for adults). In infants, REM sleep takes over 50 percent of their sleep.

When you dream and feel most relaxed, you are actually in the REM sleep phase.

As the majority of sleep happens during the REM phase, this is also a time for learning. Therefore, REM actually plays a huge role when it comes to memory, learning, and mood.

But… What Is REM Sleep?

Every sleep cycle begins with non-REM sleep, and from there moves into the REM sleep stage.

Initially, the first phase of REM lasts for 10 minutes. Every next stage lasts longer. So, the final phase of REM sleep may last for 60 minutes to understand the benefits of the REM stage to your body.

You should know how your body works during the phase. That being said, below is the list of the common and mandatory body reactions during the REM sleep:

  • Rapid movement of the eyes
  • Fast breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Higher heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased oxygen
  • Sexual arousal in both gender
  • Twitching of the limbs
  • Twitching of the face

In most people, temporary sleep paralysis happens in this phase. That state is evoked when the brain signals the spinal cord to cease the movement of the legs and arms.

This lack of muscle activity is known as atonia. Furthermore, atonia may be a protective mechanism to prevent injury that can easily be caused by acting out our dreams.

Also, REM sleep in often associated with very strong and colorful dreams because of the increase in brain activity. Muscles are immobilized during the sleep, but the brain is still active.

Actually, the brain is very active and that’s the main reason why this stage of sleep is often called paradoxical sleep.


Dreaming is common to every human. This is nothing strange. However, people tend to be sincerely surprised when they learned that they actually dream only 2 hours each night.

As you know, the following day, you don’t remember your dreams. One of the main dream functions is to help your process your emotions. In most, cases when people dream, the problem that they are dealing with while awake, tend to ‘deal’ with that problem while sleeping.

The truth is that events from the day often invade your sleep and people who suffer from anxiety or stress and more likely to have scary or frightening dreams. They can be experienced during each sleep phase. However, they are the most vivid in the REM stage.

Quick fact: some people dream in color, while others dream black and white.

Non-REM sleep

For your body to enter a deep REM phase, it has to go through a few mild stages, also known as the none-REM sleep phases. Each non-REM sleep phase lasts between 5-15 minutes.

Stage 1 non-REM sleep: in this phase, a person is based between asleep and awake periods. Basically, a person is in a state of very light sleep.

Stage 2 non-REM sleep: this stage is deeply based on a slightly deeper sleep. Also, in this stage, the heart rate slows down, and body temperature drops.

Stage 3 and 4 non-REM sleep: these phases are all about delta sleep. Delta sleep is also known as slow-wave sleep. In this phase, muscles starting relaxing, the supply blood to the muscles increases, and the body have an extra job to do.

While you are into this phase, your body grows tissues and repairs itself. Also, energy stores are refreshed, and the hormones are released.

Little is known, but people actually get less NREM sleep as they age.

People under 30 in general experience 2 hours of restorative sleep per night, while older adults may just get 30 minutes of restorative sleep. In a way, this is similar to mandatory percent of sleep per age.

How Much Deep Sleep Should You Get?

You need deep sleep. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to hit a full sleep stage or even a dream. That being said, as a healthy adult, you can expect to spend at least 23 percent of your sleep in a deep sleep.

Basically, if you manage to sleep eight hours per day, you actually spend between 60 and 115 minutes in deep sleep stage, or REM phase. But, as mentioned earlier, that will change as you get older.

Simply said, you will need less deep sleep as you get older. Why? Your body won’t have to learn so much or repaid, like at a younger age. After all, you spend more of your energy as a child, teenaged, and young person.

As stated above, in the REM phase, your brain works by learning, consolidating memories, performing physical recovery, and energizing your body. And without deep sleep, sleep deprivation will kick in, especially in teens. On another hand, you shouldn’t allow to experience roo much deep sleep, which is again different than simply oversleeping.

Can You Increase Deep Sleep

Maybe you are too busy during the day, or you simply have health problems that keep you up at night, such as nocturia, so you need additional deep sleep. If so, can you achieve it? The truth is that anything can be programmed. Therefore, you can hit deep sleep with simple tactics and proper steps.

How can you reach it? The main thing that you should understand here is that you can’t force your brain to go into a deep sleep.

Luckily many strategies can help you increase the overall percentage of deep sleep.

The most effective steps for increasing deep sleep are:

  • meditation
  • eating healthy
  • drinking healthy
  • regular exercise
  • sleeping in proper sleep environment
  • using white noise
  • bloking the light

Of course, you can keep up with the tech and think about using sleep trackers. Although the science is still new here, available gear can even now help you track your sleep patterns and see how much of each phase you actually experience.

Moreover, you will be able to know how much of deep sleep you are actually getting.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Some people get to experience RBD in their REM sleep phase. RBD is actually asleep behavior disorder. This condition occurs when the muscle paralysis usually experienced during REM sleep does not happen.

In that case, a person acts differently. REM sleep behavior disorder tends to be severe, with symptoms worsening over time. REM sleep behavior disorder is always caused by malfunctioning nerve pathways in the brain.

These are the strongest risk factors for RBD development:

  • Male
  • Over 50
  • Being on medications
  • Recent withdrawal from alcohol
  • Recent withdrawal from drugs
  • Having a neurodegenerative disorder
  • Having narcolepsy

Luckily, this condition can be treated with proper medication and change in the sleeping routine. Creating the right environment with safe traits is the very first step toward the better day.

REM Sleep: Stages, Non-REM, And REM Disorder – Conclusion

Sleep is mandatory for everyone. Furthermore, it is the base of your overall well-being. Each sleep phase is essential. However, among them, the deep state is the essential one.

After all, the REM phase keeps you rested and healthy. In general, adults need 1 to 2 hours of deep sleep per 8 hours of nightly sleep.

You can check where you stand regarding this matter by the latest tech. If you are waking up tired and exhausted regularly, it would be a good idea to talk with your doctor.