Deep sleep is vital for overall health. It benefits memory, cognitive function, energy, muscle repair, immune function, and more. Deep sleep is a natural process the body goes through every night; it’s one of four integral phases of sleep. However, there are ways to increase the duration of time spent in deep sleep and improve overall sleep quality which will benefit your overall health and improve your quality of life.
Learn how to increase deep sleep with these 8 simple and natural strategies – some of which might surprise you!
Simply put, deep sleep is a stage of sleep during your sleep cycle. Specifically, it is the third of four stages of sleep during which it is harder to wake somebody up.
During deep sleep, your muscles relax, your heartbeat and breathing slow, and your body enters recovery mode. In addition, brain waves also slow down during this phase, which is why it’s referred to as slow-wave sleep.
Experts believe this stage of sleep to be incredibly important because it is when the body recovers and grows. Furthermore, it may bolster the immune system and contribute to insightful thinking, creativity, and memory.
REM vs Deep Sleep
At night, we cycle through four phases of sleep multiple times over. These include periods of REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM (NREM) sleep. The first three phases, including deep sleep, are NREM sleep, and the final phase is REM sleep.
Unlike deep sleep, which is characterized by long, slow brain waves and slow breathing, REM sleep is characterized by rapid eye movements, faster breathing, and brain activity.
The REM phase is when most people dream and some believe may help process our emotions. Everyone experiences both deep sleep and REM sleep, and both phases play an important role in overall sleep quality.
Light Sleep vs Deep Sleep
Light sleep precedes deep sleep in the progression of sleep stages. Light sleep, or stage 2 of NREM sleep, occurs after making the transition from wakefulness to sleep.
Similar to deep sleep, heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax during light sleep. However, unlike during deep sleep, there are brief bursts of brain activity during light sleep.
How Much Deep Sleep Do You Need
You can determine the amount of deep sleep you need based on your total sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. During that time, the body cycles between all 4 stages of sleep, spending the most time in stage 2—light sleep. We spend more time in deep sleep earlier in the night and more time in REM sleep towards morning.
In general, though, if a person is sleeping 7 hours per night, they will spend about an hour to an hour and a half of that time in deep sleep. Based on AASM recommendations, adults should get at least this much deep sleep per night.
If you are spending less than 7 hours asleep each night, or don’t feel refreshed come morning, you may need more deep sleep.
How To Increase Deep Sleep
Even those who spend the recommended 7-9 hours in bed every night may experience trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up feeling tired. But, there are steps someone can take to help solve these problems and increase deep sleep.
Here are 8 things you can do to improve your sleep and overall health.
1. Go To Bed Earlier
If you struggle to get enough sleep, going to bed earlier is one of the best ways to increase your total amount of sleep and, thus, deep sleep.
While this may seem straightforward, many people struggle to fall asleep at an earlier bedtime. Creating a bedtime routine and sticking to it can help. It will not only help you fall asleep faster but also help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, so you fall asleep and wake up at around the same time each day.
When you develop this pattern, falling asleep and waking up may become much easier.
2. Warm Up
A warm bath or shower before bed may help promote sleep and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. This is because sleep and core body temperature are closely related.
According to research, sleep onset is most likely when the body’s core temperature is declining at its steepest rate. Thus, the decrease in body temperature following a warm bath or shower can help promote sleep.
3. Get Morning Sunlight
Getting sunlight first thing in the morning can help kick-start your body’s wake cycle and regulate your circadian rhythm. This can not only make you feel more alert in the morning but also help you feel more tired and fall asleep earlier at night.
The CDC recommends getting sunlight within an hour of waking up, when you are the most sensitive to light, to reap the most benefits.
4. Avoid Napping
Napping during the day can mean you get less deep sleep at night. This is because you satisfy some of your body’s need for deep sleep while napping. Additionally, napping can reduce your drive for sleep, which increases as the day progresses and ultimately helps you fall asleep.
If you’re napping regularly during the day because you’re not getting enough sleep at night, resist the urge and go to bed earlier to break the cycle.
While you might think watching TV or scrolling through your phone before bed helps you unwind, it may be doing more harm than good. Exposure to light at night, i.e. from screens, can delay the rise in the hormone melatonin that helps put you to sleep, making it harder to fall asleep. This can disrupt your circadian rhythm, and, thus, mess with your sleep cycle.
To avoid this problem, leave phones, tablets, and TVs out of the bedroom, and also consider dimming the lights for 1-2 hours before bedtime.
6. Review Your Medications
If you’re having difficulty sleeping, it may be your medication that is causing insomnia. This is a common problem among people taking various drugs, such as those to treat allergies, high blood pressure, depression, and more.
However, there are also medications that can help promote deep sleep. These work by promoting GABA activity in the brain. If you struggle with insomnia, talk to your doctor about if any of your medications could be the cause and if a sleep-promoting prescription is right for you.
7. Eat More Fiber
How we eat impacts our sleep, and research suggests eating a more fibrous diet may help enhance deep sleep. In a study of normal-weight adults, those who ate more fiber had more slow-wave, or deep, sleep.
Additionally, more saturated fat and more sugar were associated with lighter, less restorative, and more disrupted sleep. Foods that are high in fiber include artichokes, beans, peas, brussels sprouts, and berries, to name a few.
8. Listen to Pink Noise
Like white noise, pink noise can help block out the sounds that may make it difficult to sleep. However, pink noise can also enhance slow waves during deep sleep, increase deep sleep duration, and improve cognitive function.
Pink noise is a calming, low-pitch, consistent sound, such as rainfall or crashing waves. But you don’t have to rely on nature to lull you to sleep; there are sound machines available with a pink noise setting.
What are the benefits of deep sleep?
Deep sleep benefits memory, cognitive function, muscle repair, immune function, and more. It’s vital for overall health.
How can I track my deep sleep duration?
ou can use sleep tracking devices and apps to monitor your deep sleep duration during the night.
What factors can disrupt deep sleep?
Factors like stress, caffeine intake, alcohol consumption, and sleep disorders can disrupt deep sleep.
Can certain medical conditions affect deep sleep?
Yes, conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia can interfere with deep sleep. Consult a healthcare professional for guidance.
Is it possible to oversleep and affect deep sleep?
Yes, oversleeping can disrupt your sleep cycles, including deep sleep. It’s important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Learning how to get more deep sleep is about forming good habits that will help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. This includes all the tips above like reducing screen time before bed and eating a healthier balanced diet throughout the day.
By following these simple tips consistently, you will not only increase your deep sleep but also improve your overall health and quality of life.
If you have taken a good look at your lifestyle and habits and are still waking up or feeling tired throughout the day, you may want to talk with your doctor. They can review your situation and help identify the potential cause or even recommend a sleep specialist that may be able to assist you.