People often talk about sleep as something that is unique from person to person, and while this is not entirely false, there is somewhat of a benchmark that you should aim for in terms of how to increase deep sleep. Each individual may thrive or struggle on different sleep schedules. However, deep sleep is measured more precisely than simply what time you laid your head on your pillow and what time you woke up the next day.
There is much that contribute to this metric, such as quality of sleep, deep sleep stages, and frequency of falling out of that deep stage throughout the night. You have probably noticed that even if you get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, how you feel each morning is inconsistent. This has much to do with how much deep sleep you are actually getting per evening. This article will address how to increase deep sleep so that you wake up feeling refreshed each day.
Stages of sleep
Before you can create a plan of action for yourself, it is important to understand the stages of sleep and how our bodies move in and out of them throughout the night.
REM is an acronym for rapid eye movement. During this period of sleep, your brain activity escalates, and your pulse, blood pressure, and breathing patterns all speed up. When you are inside of a REM cycle, you can expect that you will do the bulk of your dreaming as well. REM sleep is essential for the cognitive functions of learning and memory.
Non REM sleep
When you are experiencing this sleep cycle, you transition from being awake to falling asleep. Opposite to REM sleep, your brain function will slow down, and your muscles, breathing, and blood pressure will all relax as a result. This is often described as a period where you recognize that you are not awake, but you are also not completely asleep.
Factors that affect sleep quality
All throughout the day, we are making lifestyle choices; from the second we wake up, the choices we make can all contribute to that evening’s night of rest. Some habits will ensure that you get more deep sleep while others actively work to prevent you from getting enough deep sleep.
A sleep routine is not just something that is beneficial for a child. Adults thrive on this as well. There is science behind the suggestion of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This sets up an expectation within your body and allows your internal clock to become trained to get what it needs in the time you provide. Inconsistency in your sleep schedule can be symptomatic of your lifestyle and sticking to one no matter what may not be entirely feasible. However, if you want to improve deep sleep, you need to set your body up to be able to do so.
Even low to moderate amounts of alcohol will impact how much deep sleep you get, especially if consumed close to bedtime. The way that our bodies process this substance is not conducive to restful sleep stages, and although many claim it helps them fall asleep, it can prevent you from staying asleep.
Much like alcohol, caffeine works against your body’s natural ability to improve deep sleep. While limited amounts of caffeine are not dangerous by any means, having in any form or quantity close to the evening hours is undoubtedly going to hold you back from enough deep sleep.
Since caffeine is traditionally consumed in the morning, in an effort to wake us up, this can create a vicious circle. What you are looking to help you wake up, is in fact, keeping you up at night, which is why you struggle to feel fully rested in the morning and need its assistance.
Your sleep environment
Where are you going to bed each night? In terms of deep sleep, the environment in which you sleep can either work with or against you. According to a study, outdoor light, for example, is directly linked to sleep and mental health. Below are a few things to consider when cultivating your ideal deep sleep environment.
- The temperature of the room
- Mattress and bed linen quality
- Amount of light
- Outside noises
- If you share a bed or sleep alone
This might feel like a lot to consider. However, think about it in smaller parts. While some experienced deep sleep through a silent bedroom, others achieved the same sleep stage with white noise. It is more about using trial and error to discover your ideal environmental combination than it is researching what is common for most people and deciding that the advice is gospel no matter what.
The ways in which we use our bodies during the day most definitely will affect how we sleep at night. So many benefits stem from including daily physical activity into your routine, and getting enough sleep is no exception.
This is important because deep sleep helps our bodies perform at their peak throughout the day. So in terms of the physical demands we put on our bodies, if we get more deep sleep, our bodies can perform better, which helps us get enough deep sleep.
There is not much in life that stress does not affect, so to learn that it will affect your sleep should come as no surprise. When our minds and bodies are put under stress, they put up blockers as a defense mechanism. You may find that you toss and turn and experience light sleep when you are stressed out, and this is because you are not giving your brain waves a chance to slow down enough to enter a stage of deep sleep.
Common sleep disorders
While this is certainly not a complete list, below are some of the more common sleep disorders for you to be aware of that could be contributing to your inability to get more deep sleep.
This condition has to do with your breathing patterns during times of rest. More specifically, repeated patterns of stop and go breathing throughout the night. Some things that contribute to this disorder can be age and body weight. Sometimes this can be remedied through lifestyle changes, while other more severe cases will require the use of a machine called a CPAP to regulate the airflow through the breathing passageways while you are asleep.
Restless leg syndrome
Have your limbs ever felt like they are on pins and needles or like you have to move them around immediately during the evenings and throughout the night? It could be restless leg syndrome. Those that suffer from this condition have deep sleep interruptions by the increscent need to get up and ‘walk it off’ or move their legs until the compulsion to do so subsides.
People that are categorized as being narcoleptic are those who experience an extreme level of sleepiness throughout the day to the point that if they do not give in to the drowsiness, it can affect their ability to function properly or think clearly.
How to increase deep sleep
The good news for those who struggle to get enough deep sleep is that you can do things to facilitate change.
Limit or eliminate screen time
The infamous blue light that comes from our screens and devices does nothing for us in terms of slow-wave sleep. While it is probably impossible to completely eliminate screens from your day altogether, making a habit of doing so as a part of your pre-bed routine is a great idea. Training our brains to unplug from technology and not work as hard as they need to during the day is a great way to set our bodies up to get more deep sleep.
Reduce frequency or length of daily naps
Naps are a simple pleasure in life and, for many, something to be looked forward to, but it is essential to understand that they might be sabotaging your sleep cycle. While taking a nap is certainly not going to derail your overall sleep health, taking hours out of what should be your body’s ‘awake time’ to sleep could be stealing time from that evening’s deep sleep.
Supplements should always be properly researched, but there is certainly no shortage of natural sleep aids on the market if this is something you have determined is a healthy way for you to experience deep sleep. Daily vitamins that give your body what it needs to operate at its peak or supplements that are taken in the evening that are specifically aimed at reducing sleep deprivation are two common approaches.
In terms of our bodies, we get out of them what we put into them. This is true in terms of physical performance, growth, and development. As well as brain function, so why would sufficient deep sleep be any different? Certain foods can provide natural pathways to the promotion of solid sleep, while others actively work against it. For example, even naturally occurring sugars can keep our minds and bodies awake long after they should be experiencing sleep.
If you want to improve deep sleep, you must improve the space in which you attempt to get it. Deep sleep occurs when our minds and bodies are in their most relaxed state, and everything from your pillowcase, to the paint color on your walls, to the scents of your bedroom, will play an active role in promoting it or sabotaging it. Decreasing stress throughout the day also lends itself to a more peaceful environment. Deep sleep can also be used as a recovery method for events requiring a high resilience level.
At this point, it should be evident that some semblance of a solid evening routine should be a priority. All the sleep medicine in the world won’t help you if your actions leading up to bedtime are not also working in your favor. The best thing about this is that there are so many suggestions on what to add into or remove from your routine in order to promote healthy sleep patterns that you are not chained to one be all end all format.
What happens when we do not experience deep sleep
Your health may not be compromised over one bad night’s sleep. However, ongoing poor sleep habits and conditions can add up and lead to some significant health issues in the future. Below are a few things that can become compromised if you do not actively work towards improving sleep health.
- Blood pressure
- Irritability throughout the day
- Poor motor skills
- Decreased concentration levels
As you can see, one day or even a few days strung together, experiencing these symptoms is something you can overcome. However, a lack of deep sleep in the long term can create long-term issues as a result.
Do not take your sleep for granted, and do not discount the overall impact it has on your personal health. Deep sleep is not only essential, but it also improves the quality of life. When you have done everything you can to promote deep sleep and not only hope for it but actively work towards achieving it. You will feel so great that deep sleep will become non-negotiable and addictive (in the best way possible!).