What Is Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep?

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is the stage in your sleep cycle when most dreaming occurs. During REM sleep, you enter sleep paralysis, your eyes move back and forth, breathing becomes irregular, blood pressure and heart rate rise, brain activity increases, and you might even become sexually aroused. If you've ever noticed someone twitching and breathing erratically when they are asleep...this is a REM state.

Understanding REM sleep was vital for me in learning how to lucid dream. Once I learned what REM felt like and, more importantly, when it occurred, I was able to have three times as many lucid dreams as I had before. Don't overlook this article, I'll show you how to use REM sleep for lucid dreaming. 

Gray = non-REM, Black = REM

Rapid Eye Movement During Your Sleep Cycle

Every night, you enter different stages of light and deep sleep, also known as non-REM sleep. The deeper the sleep, the more your body is resting and rejuvenating. The lighter the sleep, the more alert you are.

REM is the lightest sleep state and also when you experience the greatest increase in metabolic activity. Because of this, it is also known as paradoxical sleep. Paradoxical because you are asleep, yet in a state of increased activity and awareness just as if you were awake. 

REM cycles start about every 90 minutes throughout your sleep cycle. The length of each cycle increases as the night goes on. Therefore, the second half of the night is when most dreaming occurs.

The 2-2.5 hours we spend in REM sleep each night is crucial for memory consolidation and dreaming. Without it, we would go insane.

Rapid Eye Movement & Lucid Dreaming Techniques

Several lucid dream techniques require basic knowledge of when REM sleep occurs and how long it lasts. Now that you possess this information, pick out a technique below and give it a try:

  • The REM Rebound Effect is a method of increasing the time you spend in REM sleep. This is accomplished by depriving REM early in the sleep cycle, or the night before.
  • A Wake Induced Lucid Dream (WILD) is a type of lucid dream where you transition from being awake directly into a dream. In order to pull this off, it's important to be in a REM cycle.
  • Wake Back to Bed (WBTB) is a technique for attempting a WILD. I like to wake up after 4.5 hours of sleep (which is right before I'm about to enter a new REM cycle), stay awake for at least 30 minutes, then drift back to sleep in an attempt to enter a lucid dream.
  • A Nap Induced Lucid Dream is a technique for having a lucid dream during the day. We often enter REM sleep immediately upon taking naps, making them ideal for a quick lucid dream!

Using Supplements to Influence REM Sleep

The chemicals that affect the state and function of your brain are called neurotransmitters. Food, drugs, supplements, etc. all effect the levels of these neurotransmitters, which ultimately relates to how well you function, how tired or alert you feel, and how well you sleep.

There are two neurotransmitters in particular, serotonin and acetylcholine (ACh), that I like to experiment with for lucid dreaming...with great results. Here are the supplements that I use:

  • 5-HTP. After ingesting this supplement it is converted into serotonin in the brain. Serotonin promotes deep, relaxed sleep and suppresses REM during the first half of the night. This leads to increased REM sleep during the second part of the night aka the REM Rebound Effect.
  • Galantamine and Choline. This combo of supplements works great together for increasing ACh levels in the brain. ACh increases alertness and is used by the brain to "turn on" REM sleep. Caution: Only take them after at least 2 REM cycles (4.5 hrs of sleep); otherwise, your body will be deprived of the deep sleep it needs and you might experience unpleasant sleep & dreams. 

Rapid Summary

Here are the most important tidbits about Rapid Eye Movement sleep: 

  • REM sleep is when most dreaming occurs.
  • REM sleep occurs 4-5 times per night starting at 1.5 hrs, 3 hrs, 4.5 hrs, 6 hrs, and 7.5 hrs.
  • It's shorter in duration in the beginning of the night; longer at the end.
  • There are techniques and supplements that manipulate REM for the purpose of lucid dreaming.

› Rapid Eye Movement (REM)

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