Do you wake up feeling exhausted? It may be a sign that you’re not getting enough deep sleep…
Even though we need about 7-9 hours of sleep each night, the quality of sleep is just as important. While you rest, your body goes through different stages of the sleep cycle. Deep sleep, also called slow-wave sleep, is a term used to define stage 3 and 4 of sleep. During these stages, your heart rate and breathing are at their lowest, your brain waves slow down, and your muscles and eyes relax.
Deep sleep is known to be the body’s most rejuvenating sleep stage. It is the stage of sleep we need to feel refreshed when we wake up in the morning. Unlike light or REM sleep, deep sleep is when your body and brain waves slow down. Deep sleep is responsible for helping process the information you encounter each day. Without enough, the brain can’t convert this information to your memory.
Deep sleep is so restorative, as glucose metabolism in the brain increases during deep sleep, supporting short-term and long-term memory and overall learning. Deep sleep is also when the pituitary gland secretes important hormones, like human growth hormone, leading to growth and development of the body, repairing tissues and strengthens its immune system.
How much deep sleep do we need?
We spend roughly 75% of the night in non-REM sleep and the other 25% in REM sleep. Of this, around 13-23% of your total sleep is deep sleep. Deep sleep also decreases with age, so there’s no specific requirement for deep sleep, but younger people may need more because it promotes growth and development.
What are the benefits of deep sleep?
Deep sleep is not only important for the body and mind, but for your overall quality of life. Deep sleep stages are known as restorative phases that are critical for hormone regulation, growth, and physical renewal.
By conserving energy during deep sleep, you’ll have more energy upon waking the next day. With good quality sleep, you should feel less tired when you wake up. Your adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels go up during deep sleep. ATP is a source of energy for your cells.
When the pituitary gland releases human growth hormones, our bodies begin repairing muscle and tissue and regenerating cells. Deep sleep also allows for more cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to flow into our bodies, which clears out cell waste.
Increasing blood supply to muscles
The deep sleep phase is essential for muscle recovery and restoring the body. Your brain is resting with very little activity, so the bloody supply available to your muscles increases, delivering extra amounts of oxygen and nutrients which facilitate their healing and growth.
Strengthening the immune system
Deep sleep can strengthen our immune system, allowing us to fight infection and illness, and reduce inflammation.
Boosts memory consolidation and learning
By lowering our body temperature, bloody pressure, and heart rate, deep sleep allows us to slow metabolism and conserve energy for the next day. This energy conservation promotes increased glucose metabolism, helping both short-term and long-term memory consolidation, and learning.
How to get more deep sleep
To help quiet your mind and learn how to increase the amount of deep sleep you get each night, practice the tips below. Getting enough sleep in general may also increase your deep sleep.
- Work out daily
It’s no secret that getting in a daily work out session is beneficial to sleep. Those who work out during the day tend to fall asleep faster than those who do not work out. To start, try about 20-30 minutes each day. However, make sure to avoid intense workouts right before bedtime as these can raise your heart rate, leading to disrupted sleep.
- Eat more fiber
A healthy diet has an impact on the quality of sleep you get. Studies have shown that a greater intake of fiber can result in more time spent in the deep sleep stage. During the day, make a conscious effort to add more fiber into your diet. You can start by incorporating more whole-grains and leafy greens.
- Try yoga or meditation
Yoga and meditation are both great ways to center your body and mind, leading to better sleep quality. Work yoga into your daily workout routine or right before bed.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Stress from busy days can make it difficult to shut your mind off and relax into deep sleep. Creating a calming bedtime routine can help get rid of any looming sleep anxiety. Your bedtime routine can be anywhere from 30-60 minutes, but the key is to keep that routine consistent. This helps the mind to associate the routine with sleep. Reading a book or taking a nice, warm bath are great things to incorporate into your bedtime routine.
- Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary
Any type of blue-light exposure is a potential deep sleep disruptor. Try using an eye mask to block out unnecessary light. Avoid using any electronic devices at least an hour before bed. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress that supports you when you sleep and wear warm socks in a cool bedroom to keep your skin warm.
During deep sleep, you pay less attention to the outside world. But while you may be out like a light, some parts of your body are hard at work. Your breathing and heart rate go down, but your ability to fight germs and to form memories goes up. Deep sleep is the sleep stage that makes us feel ready to take on the day; it clears our minds and enhances our memory. Each sleep stage still has an important role to play, so it is key to focus on relaxing the body and mind before going to sleep.