When you don’t get an adequate amount of deep sleep, your chances of getting sick, gaining weight, or feeling depressed increase dramatically. If that sentence doesn’t want to make you hop into bed right away and get back to it, what else is gonna convince you of the importance of having enough deep sleep? But what exactly is deep sleep? Deep sleep (sometimes called N3, delta, or slow-wave sleep) is notably different from other stages of sleep. It’s crucial for both hormonal regulation and physical renewal. What you’ve learned and the emotions you’ve experienced are processed, your metabolism balances, and your brain detoxifies. It’s crucial for the development of both your brain and body! For healthy adults, between 12 and 23 percent of all of your sleep time is spent in deep sleep, so if you’re getting the recommended 8 hours, that’s between a 1 hour and 1 1/2 hours of deep sleep. But most people find themselves with not enough deep sleep. “So… how do you increase deep sleep or how much deep sleep should you get?” you ask. First, you’ve got to understand it.
What Differentiates Sleep Stages?
Throughout the night you cycle through the 5 stages of sleep (not necessarily in order, and you go back and forth between them all). The first 4 stages are categorized by brainwave frequencies and biological rhythms. The 5th is REM sleep, the stage where your brain becomes very active — this is when you dream. Deep sleep occurs during the 3rd and 4th stages of sleep. After you’ve drifted off, your heart rate slows, and your body temperature drops, you’re able to transition to this restorative state.
During this stage, you enter what’s called “slow wave sleep” — your brain produces long, slow delta waves that indicate you’re in the deepest level of sleep. During this stage, noises as loud as 100 decibels might not wake you! It’s the most disengaged you get from your environment at night (or practically anytime, really).
Despite this, your complex motor skills are still able to activate until you’re in REM sleep. If you’re suddenly aroused from deep sleep enough for the motor centers of the brain, but not the higher centers, to awaken, you’ll sleepwalk!
When you’re in deep sleep, you also produce and release human growth hormones, which are important for cell repair, especially for those who are physically active or do weight training. It’s because of the mental and physical restoration properties of deep sleep that it is so important to structure your sleep habits to allow inducing this restorative stage more easily.
How To Get More Deep Sleep -- Here Are the 5 Things You Can Do
While you can’t always eliminate stress from your life and it’s impossible to stop aging (at least… so far), there are tactics you can use to increase the amount of deep sleep in your life. If you want to feel more well-rested, eliminate brain fog, and give yourself the gift of a healthier life, here are some proactive measures that can help you hit the hay — and escape from it all:
1. Darken your room
Your brain releases the hormone melatonin when it gets dark out, which primes you for sleeping. Melatonin doesn’t put you to sleep on its own, but rather it works with your circadian rhythm to regulate your sleep and wake times. As the light dims, melatonin levels rise, and keeping your room free from excess light can help let your body know that it’s time to sleep. What prevents deep sleep? Using phones, tablets, and other devices can inhibit the production of melatonin, disrupting your sleep habits, so it’s best to leave electronics behind at least an hour or two before bedtime.
If you have a bedroom window that lets in too much light — may be from a streetlight or neighbors who leave the porch light on — this website recommends picking up some blackout curtains.
2. Improve Your Sleep Environment
Turn your bedroom into a fully relaxing sleep zone where you can wind down and escape from day-to-day stressors. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex, declutter to visually calm down your space, and set the tone with nuanced lighting, varied textures, and fresh air. Treat yourself to a bedroom that’s designed for sleep!
3. Cut the Caffeine
We all need that push through the afternoon sometimes, but it isn’t always to your advantage to have uppers in your system when you’re trying to wind down. Stop drinking coffee after 3:00pm if you find it difficult to wind down early!
4. Leave Stressors and To-Do Lists Elsewhere
One of the biggest contributors to poor sleep is anxiety and stress. It’s darn near impossible in this day and age to get through your to-do list — there’s always something there for you tomorrow… and sometimes these thoughts can creep into your mind and keep you from falling asleep easily. Make it a habit of writing tomorrow’s to-do list the evening before, preferably on paper, and let your mind be free from the tasks of tomorrow before you even climb in bed!
5. White or Pink Noise
While it may initially sound like a strange concept, there’s plenty of evidence to support that listening to white or pink noise can help you fall asleep and regulate your brain wave patterns. It’s a sort of deep sleep meditation inducer. White noise is made up of all the frequencies humans can hear, distributed equally. Pink noise is similar, but instead of equal power across the frequencies, the tones are louder and richer in lower frequencies. Pink noises in nature include waves lapping on a beach or leaves rustling in the wind, but you can put on a YouTube track of 8 hours of your favorite deep sleep inducing sounds from the comfort of your own bed.
Go Forth and Slumber!
Whatever tips and tricks you use to get yourself a better night of sleep, remember that it’s important to get past the lighter sleep phases and get the full deep sleep experience — recharge your brain and body so you can take on tomorrow with full force! It can be difficult at first to adjust to changes surrounding sleep, but the worth of improved sleep hygiene will make a noticeable difference in just a few days. Don’t live with brain fog, stumbling through life as a tired husk of a zombie. Find out why you feel sleep deprived and if snoring is the issue, we have a solution to stop your snoring. Also, don’t get too much deep sleep or else you won't be able to wake up. Sleep right, feel right!