How to sleep more deeply


by Virginia Hopkins

Q: I’ve been reading that REM sleep helps with memory and erases stress from that day. As a college student I really need a good memory and have a lot of stress, but there’s not much info about what increases or decreases REM sleep. Do you have any suggestions?

A: REM sleep, a form of deep sleep, is indeed one of the great stress healers and brain balms. In fact, recent sleep research suggests that  “fried” feeling after an all-nighter is literally caused by agitated neurons in the brain that didn’t get their sleep.

Getting enough REM sleep is mostly a matter of avoiding what blocks it, and the biggest REM blockers are drugs. Almost any drug that affects the brain will decrease REM sleep, including anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, sleeping pills, allergy pills, pain killers, beta-blockers (especially propanolol), all stimulants (including caffeine), marijuana and alcohol.

Assuming that you are a young college student, you should have no problem getting enough REM sleep if you avoid habitual drug use. REM sleep naturally decreases as we get older. The good news is that as we age we don’t seem to need as much REM sleep to stay healthy.

Melatonin, also called the sleep hormone, is naturally secreted by the brain in response to darkness. Melatonin deficiency can decrease REM sleep, and taking a melatonin supplement can increase it. This article, Melatonin Supplement Recommendations has details.

Of course it’s preferable to use non-drug and non-supplement methods for improving sleep. Here’s an article, How to Sleep Better by Dr. John Lee that has many helpful suggestions.

Post to Twitter

3 Responses to "How to sleep more deeply"

  1. Prefer Anonymous   February 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I’m sorry but I disagree. Without my medications I am unable to sleep at all.

  2. Helen Lennox   April 26, 2012 at 2:24 am

    The best remedy I have found for sleeplessness is L- Tryptophan. I read about it in one of Dr. Lee’s newsletters about 10 years ago. It is an amino acid and a precurser to melatonin. At that time it was banned, probably due to political reasons but now available again. Do some research yourself and maybe give it ago. Pleasant dreams.

  3. Matthew McC   February 27, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Have you read any of the Ray Peat articles recently Virginia specifically on the use of typtophan and melatonin. It may help make people sleep though like you say. It’s just when you read what he thinks these things can do in the body that contradicts all the good it may do. He also warns that people who never took the contaminated batch of tryptophan, that led to it being banned in the US, also started to show similar symptoms of illness. If it is available in the rest of the world why aren’t we hearing more cases of disease though to back his claim.
    I know we have to make choices in this world but there seems to be so much contradiction on nutritional issues.