Insomnia, undiagnosed sleep disorders and chronic sleep deprivation can result in a lack of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which can have a serious impact on your quality of life — and your health.

Good sleep is important for our bodies and minds. Without it, it’s hard to concentrate, our immune system is weakened, and we can become short-tempered, just to name a few things.

There are ways to get better sleep, with or without medications.

There are some things you can do to help you get better REM sleep. You might have to try one or more to see what works for you.

  1. Develop a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This primes your body for sleep and waking.
  2. Don’t drink caffeine or smoke cigarettes later in the day. These are stimulants and can interfere with sleep.
  3. Avoid alcoholic drinks at night. Though they may initially make you sleepy, they actually interfere with sleep, particularly REM sleep.
  4. Put together a relaxing sleep routine before bed. Warm baths, relaxing music like classical music, or quietly reading are all good activities.
  5. Get regular exercise. Try to get about 20 to 30 minutes a day, but do so several hours before bed.
  6. Create an ideal environment for sleep. That means no bright lights, not too hot and not too cold, and don’t watch television or work on the computer in the bedroom.
  7. If you can’t sleep, don’t lie in bed awake. Get up and go into another room and do something quietly, like read or listen to relaxing music, until you’re sleepy.
  8. Replace your pillows. If you’ve had your pillows for more than a year, consider replacing them. This might make you more comfortable for sleep.

If nothing works, talk with a medical professional. They may have other suggestions, run some tests to see if there’s an underlying cause for your sleep issues, or talk with you about prescribing medication.

Without deep sleep and REM sleep, you might find yourself becoming cranky, unable to focus, and it may impair your work performance and quality of life. Chronic sleep deprivation can be very unpleasant.

It’s essential to make sure you’re getting not only the appropriate quantity of sleep but quality of sleep also. So, be sure to be evaluated by your doctor or primary care provider before taking any medications or supplements to help you sleep. Especially because some sleep medications can be addictive.

Mental health conditions

Certain psychiatric conditions are known to affect sleep and REM sleep. These include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. All have been associated with disturbances in REM sleep. Treating the underlying psychiatric condition along with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) both help to normalize sleep.

Chronic insomnia

Chronic insomnia often has multiple causes and the correct assessment and treatment of all contributing causes is critical for maximum therapeutic benefit. A broad assessment should be performed in all patients to identify predisposing and precipitating factors such as depression, anxiety, pain, and medications that may be interfering with sleep.

If you’re living with chronic insomnia the main treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy as first-line therapy, rather than medications. If your doctor prescribes a sleep aid, the specific medication they prescribe will depend on things like:

  • your symptoms
  • the goals of treatment
  • your medical history and preferences
  • the cost
  • potential adverse effects

There are also supplements you can use to help with sleep in combination with good sleep hygiene. It’s important to remember that even though they aren’t prescription and they may be considered all-natural, that it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily safe.

Talk with a medical professional before using any supplements to make sure they’re safe and won’t interfere with any medications you may be taking.

Supplements that may be helpful with sleep include:

  • melatonin
  • valerian root
  • magnesium
  • chamomile
  • tryptophan
  • glycine
  • L-theanine
  • gingko biloba

We all need sleep — good sleep — in order to function. Sleep restores our bodies and minds, and without enough REM sleep, you won’t feel rested or rejuvenated. If you have daytime sleepiness or exhaustion that’s interfering with your work or day-to-day functioning, talk with a medical professional.

They might want to run sleep tests or do a physical to rule out any underlying causes.

Adequate REM sleep is necessary for good health and proper functioning. Chronic sleep deprivation can negatively impact your quality of life — but it doesn’t have to. There are ways to get better sleep. If lifestyle changes don’t help with sleep, talk with your doctor about medications, either over-the-counter or prescription, that might be helpful to you.