by Iris Goldsztajn
Sleep is so important. We know it has an impact on your overall health, your mood, how well you’re able to concentrate and much more. But for all the talk about the importance of REM sleep, what about the good ol’ fashion deep sleep stage? This stage of non-REM sleep also has so many benefits for your overall well-being. So what is it exactly, and how can it impact you? Here, we walk you through everything to know about deep sleep and how to get more of it.
What Is Deep Sleep, Exactly?
There are several stages in a sleep cycle, and each stage is important for a good night’s sleep. Stages one through three are considered “non-REM,” that is rapid-eye-movement sleep. Stage three is when you experience deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep (SWS) or delta sleep. At this stage, your heartbeat, breathing and brain activity slow, and you are — as the saying goes — fast asleep. Stage three can last between 45 and 90 minutes and shortens with each sleep cycle throughout the night.
What Are the Benefits of Deep Sleep?
1. Memory and learning
Deep sleep supports your short-term and long-term memory, helping you better retain the information you receive throughout the day. It is thought that it helps convert all the information you take in throughout the day into long-term memories. While you sleep, your brain sifts through what you learned and experienced the day before, and works to store the memories you need and put aside the ones you’re not using right now. That means it’s extra important to get enough deep sleep if you have a big presentation coming up, but it’s equally important even if you’re simply trying to keep memory sharp.
2. Physical health
Quality sleep, including deep sleep, supports your immune system. It helps you stay at your healthiest so that you feel able to go about your daily activities and reach your full potential. It also plays a role in supporting your heart health. That’s because deep sleep reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, meaning your heart has to work less. It gets the opportunity to relax.
3. Muscle and tissue repair
Deep sleep promotes cell regeneration and helps repair tissue, muscles and bones. It plays an important role in helping you recover following injury, but it also means that getting enough deep sleep is extra important if you work out often. Sleep is crucial for muscle growth and repair that’s necessary for maximum performance during your next workout.
4. Mood and Mental Wellbeing
How well you sleep is directly correlated with how you feel the next day. Good, quality sleep will often mean that you’ll find yourself in a better mood and will be better able to deal with whatever life throws at you. It also has a huge impact on your mental health. Poor sleep can make you feel extra stressed and anxious, and can even lead to more long-term mental health issues.
How Much Deep Sleep Do You Need?
All the stages of sleep are important, but deep sleep has an especially restorative effect. You should aim to sleep between seven and nine hours every night, which will ensure that you cycle through deep sleep for long enough to feel its benefits the next day. How much deep sleep you actually get during that time varies by gender and age. That said, it typically amounts to roughly 20 percent of your overall sleep time.
How to Get More Deep Sleep
Now that you know more about deep sleep, how can you get more of it?
1. Stick to a sleep schedule
Going to bed and waking at the same time every day (yes, including weekends) is one of the best things you can do for your sleep health. This habit helps to regulate your internal clock, training your body to know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Determine a bedtime that’s early enough for you to get your seven to nine hours, and stick to it. To help you on your way, avoid napping throughout the day and try your best not to sleep in on your days off — this will do more harm than good for how rested you feel.
2. Limit screen time
Staring at screens for too long, especially in the hours before bedtime, can really do a number on the quality of your sleep. One reason for this is that exposure to blue light after sundown messes with your body clock — so if you absolutely must use your phone or tablet in the evening, set it to an inbuilt “night mode” or download an app that can do it for you. Another reason is that what’s on our screens is super stimulating. There’s so much information to take in, and our attention is pulled every which way. If you’re still trying to process all the information you’ve been exposed to before bed, it’s bound to impact your ability to fall and stay asleep.
3. Try meditation
Stress can keep you awake and have you tossing and turning during the night — quite the opposite of deep sleep. One super effective method for reducing stress is mindfulness meditation. As well as helping you manage stress, meditation can help you find deeper sleep by balancing the hormones responsible for sleep in your body. It also reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, making you feel relaxed and ready to invite sleep in.
4. Get plenty of exercise
Doing a little cardio daily increases the amount of deep sleep you get. That’s as good a motivation to lace up your running shoes as any, right? Try to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise every day. Just make sure you don’t exercise too close to your bedtime. That could give you a spike of energy that keeps you awake.
5. Incorporate melatonin into your routine
If you find it difficult to get good quality sleep, it may help to add supplements into your bedtime routine. Consider melatonin. Melatonin is naturally produced by the body and is sometimes known as the “sleep hormone” because it helps get us into a relaxed state that makes sleep come easier. But if you’re not getting the deep sleep you need, a melatonin supplement may be able to help.
Melatonin works pretty quickly, after just 30 minutes for many people. However, it doesn’t last long. Depending on the individual, it may only stay in the body for a few hours. So many will opt for controlled-release melatonin that releases throughout the night. You can also combine controlled-release melatonin and CBD for maximum effect. You get the added benefits of CBD — which is thought to play a role in helping your body’s endocannabinoid system regulate your sleep/wake cycle — and the controlled-release formula is thought to better mimic your body’s natural release of melatonin.
Deep sleep is so important for you to feel your best mentally and physically. Thankfully, if you’re having trouble getting enough of it, there are so many lifestyle habits you can establish so that you’re getting the deep sleep you need to be at your best.
Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based writer and editor with six years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in the likes of InStyle, Stylist and Cosmopolitan, and she won first place in Writing Magazine’s Grand Prize for a short story in 2020.
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Medical News Today - What to know about deep sleep
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Healthline - What Is Deep Sleep and Why Is It Important?
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