It's no secret that getting a solid night's sleep is important. But what many people don't know is that there are different phases of sleep, and each one has its benefits. In this blog post, we'll discuss the different stages of deep sleep, learn about how to increase deep sleep naturally, and explain why it's so important for your health and well-being. We'll also give you some tips on how to achieve deep sleep every night!
What is Deep Sleep?
Deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep, is the third and final stage of non-REM sleep. It's the deepest and most restorative type of sleep, and it's when your body heals and repairs itself.
During deep sleep patterns, your heart rate and breathing slow down, your breathing becomes regular, and your blood pressure decreases. Your brain waves also become slower and more synchronized. This is in contrast to REM sleep (the final stage of sleep), which is when your brain activity is at its highest.
Although we're focusing on how to achieve deep sleep in this post, let's first do a quick recap of all four stages of sleep to create a comprehensive understanding of the sleep process.
Stages of Sleep
There are four main stages of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, REM (rapid eye movement), and awake.
Takes up around 50-60% of our overall sleep time and is the type of sleep we achieve when first lying down.
During light sleep, our breathing and heart rate slow down, and our body temperature decreases. If you've ever experienced muscle jerks as you were falling asleep, you were likely in the light sleep stage. We're not in a state of complete unconsciousness during light sleep - we can still be easily awoken by noise or movement.
Also known as slow-wave sleep, this sleep stage is when our body starts to relax and repair itself.
This type of sleep is essential for physical recovery, tissue growth, and hormone regulation. During deep sleep, our breathing becomes very regular, and our heartbeat slows even further. (We'll talk more about these benefits in a moment)
It's much harder to wake someone up during deep sleep - if you've ever tried, you'll know that it feels pretty much impossible!
REM (rapid eye movement)
REM stands for rapid eye movement. It's the stage of sleep when we achieve the most brain activity.
This is when we dream, and our eyes move rapidly from side to side under our eyelids.
Our breathing and heart rate also quicken during REM sleep, and we're also more likely to have vivid dreams during this stage.
We typically spend around 15% of our overall sleep time in a state of wakefulness. It includes the time we spend in bed before or after sleeping, as well as brief periods of wakefulness throughout the night.
During this time, we may shift position or scratch an itch, but generally speaking, we don't achieve deep or REM sleep while awake.
Most people spend about 50% of their total sleep time in stage two, 20% in REM, and 30% in the other stages combined.
Why is Deep Sleep Important?
There are many benefits to getting deep sleep every night, including physical recovery and cell regeneration, boosting memory consolidation and learning, supporting the immune system, and giving us more energy for the next day.
- Physical recovery and cell regeneration: During deep sleep, our bodies can repair and regenerate cells. This is when the body produces growth hormone, which helps with tissue repair, muscle growth, and bone density.
- Boosting memory consolidation and learning: Deep sleep is also essential for memory consolidation and learning. During this stage of sleep, your brain processes information from the day and stores it in long-term memory.
- Supporting the immune system: Deep sleep also plays a role in supporting our immune system. Interestingly, studies show that people who get enough deep sleep are less likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus.
- Giving us more energy for the next day: Finally, deep sleep is important for giving us energy for the next day. During deep sleep, our bodies restore and recharge so we can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day ahead.
How to Achieve Deep Sleep
Now that we know all about deep sleep and why it's so important, let's talk about how to achieve it.
Exercise is a great way to achieve deep sleep. A moderate amount of exercise is the key - too little, and you won't reap the benefits, but too much can have the opposite effect and make it harder to achieve deep sleep.
Avoid (or limit) caffeine
Caffeine can give us a much-needed benefit when consumed strategically. But it can also lead to restless nights if consumed too close to bedtime. It often takes up to eight hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off, so it's best to avoid it in the evening.
As a rule of thumb, try to avoid caffeine at least six hours before you go to sleep. This helps ensure you're able to achieve deep sleep through the night.
Meditation before bed
The benefits of meditation are widely known—improved mental and emotional well-being, increased focus and concentration, lower stress levels—but did you know that meditation can also improve your sleep? A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a brief mindfulness meditation program was effective in improving sleep quality for adults with chronic insomnia.
How to do it: There are many different ways to meditate, but if you're new to the practice, start with a simple breathing meditation. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Hone your attention on your breath as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Start with just five minutes of meditation before bed and increase the time as you get more comfortable with the practice.
If you find it tricky to meditate on your own, there are many guided meditation programs and apps available to help you begin. Headspace is a popular app that offers a free trial with ten days of guided meditation sessions.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is another effective way to reduce stress and improve sleep quality, and it works well in conjunction with meditation before sleep.
The technique involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body, starting with the toes and working up to the head. This can help to release any tension you're holding in your body and clear your mind before bed.
To do progressive muscle relaxation:
- Lie down in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
- Start by tensing the muscles in your toes for a count of five, then relaxing them.
- Work your way up through the different muscle groups in your body, tensing each group for five seconds before relaxing them.
- Once you've gone through all of your muscle groups, take a few deep breaths and focus on the sensations of relaxation throughout your body.
You can find more detailed instructions for progressive muscle relaxation here.
Creating a relaxing bedtime routine is another helpful strategy to achieve deep sleep. This can involve anything from taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to calming music.
The key is to find what works for you! Make it part of your nightly routine so your body knows it's time to wind down and relax. To create your routine, start with the activities that you enjoy and that make you feel relaxed. Then, add in any other activities that you find helpful for sleep, such as disconnecting from electronics screens an hour before bedtime.
Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet
For our bodies to achieve deep sleep, it's important to create an environment that is conducive to sleep. This means making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.
If you live in a city and noise from outside is a problem, try using a white noise machine or earplugs to help block out the sound. And if light from outside is seeping into your room, try using blackout curtains or an eye mask to achieve complete darkness.
Stick to a sleep schedule
One of the most important things you can do for your sleep is to stick to a regular sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
Doing this helps regulate your body's natural sleep-wake cycle and makes it easier to fall asleep—and stay asleep—throughout the night.
If you have trouble sticking to a regular sleep schedule, start by setting a goal of going to bed and waking up 15 minutes earlier every day until you reach your desired bedtime. Then, gradually start to increase the time until you're able to stick to a regular sleep schedule.
Achieve Deep Sleep Tonight with These Tips
We've covered several different strategies for how to achieve deep sleep in this post. Some key takeaways are to avoid caffeine late in the day, establish a regular sleep schedule, keep your bedroom dark and cool, and steer clear of working or using electronic devices in bed. By following these tips, you can achieve deep sleep and enjoy all the benefits that come with it!If you're looking for even more strategies to improve your sleep, we encourage you to learn more about vagus nerve stimulating headphones from Neuvana next.