Getting enough sleep is important, and the quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity. You can read our guide to the risks of sleep deprivation for an idea of what can happen when you don’t get enough high-quality sleep.
Sleep is not a passive activity, and your brain and body need to go through several stages of sleep to function properly the next day. Different processes happen during each of these stages. These stages can be divided into REM and non-REM sleep, and non-REM sleep is either light sleep or deep sleep.
As you sleep, your body goes through several stages of activity. Each stage and type of sleep is important.
- REM Sleep: In this stage, your closed eyes move rapidly and your brain wave activity increases. This is the stage in which you dream
- Light Sleep: During light sleep, you begin to relax. Your body slows your brain wave patterns and heartbeat, and your breath becomes slow and steady
- Deep Sleep: During deep sleep, your body processes are at their lowest as cellular repair begins. This stage is very important for the feeling of restful sleep
Of these stages, deep sleep is the phase most responsible for healing and rejuvenation. During deep sleep, your autonomous functions– breathing, heartbeat, body temperature, and brain waves– reach their lowest level. Your muscles are also extremely relaxed. During deep sleep, tissue growth and repair take place. This stage also sees hormonal release and the restoration of cellular energy.
Deep sleep is when your brain restores its energy and processes memories. While it was previously thought that REM sleep was most important for processing memories, new studies suggest that the slow brain waves associated with deep sleep act to consolidate memories you attain during waking hours.
Brain maintenance occurs during deep sleep, too. The brain’s glycogen levels are restored during deep sleep, giving you the energy for thought the next day. Waste products are removed from brain cells during this stage, too, which does not happen during waking hours.
Deep sleep is also necessary for bodily maintenance. Good sleep is linked to better immune function. As growth hormone is released during deep sleep, your body receives instructions to begin muscle repair and growth. Your muscles experience increased blood flow, which means additional oxygen and other nutrients necessary for recovery, repair, and regeneration. Another hormone, prolactin, is also released during deep sleep. Prolactin helps regulate inflammation, which means that enough deep sleep can help prevent inflammation.
How Much Deep Sleep Do I Need?
Deep sleep is the stage of sleep that occurs the least frequently. This stage occurs most frequently at the start of your sleep, and by the end of the night, you are sleeping less deeply. You only spend between 13% and 23% of your total sleep time in deep sleep, so it’s important to make this stage count! You can ensure that you get enough deep sleep by sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night.
How To Get Better Deep Sleep
To improve your deep sleep, you generally need to improve the overall quality of your sleep. There are several ways to do this, and we will cover a few of the most impactful here.
Develop A Routine
Your sleep is largely dependent on your circadian rhythm, and you can help your body regulate itself by developing a bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. If you have a hard time with that, then consistency is key. Even if your routine gets interrupted, make sure you plan to get the same amount of sleep as you normally do.
Optimize Your Environment
For the best sleep, you need to be in a cool, dark, quiet room. You want your thermostat to be set between 60º and 67º Fahrenheit for ideal sleeping conditions.
If you live in an urban area, you might want to consider getting a white noise machine to block outside noise. While anyone can benefit from the calming effects of a white noise machine, it’s particularly important that people sleeping in cities have something that can reduce the impact of sirens, car alarms, rumbling garbage trucks, and other urban interruptions to a good night’s sleep.
Darkness is also necessary for idealized sleep. While you might not be able to get your room completely pitch black, blackout curtains can certainly help. It’s also important to turn off your electronics or at least put them in a mode where the screen isn’t on. Blue light from screens blocks the production of melatonin, which is a hormone that signals your body to start preparing for sleep.
In general, you shouldn’t eat much right before bedtime. Eating a few hours before bed gives you time to digest and leads to a decreased risk of heartburn or acid reflux. And while some foods can be relaxing, food can signal wakefulness in the brain and interfere with your ability to fall asleep. What you eat during the day can matter, too. The American Sleep Foundation has noted that a low carbohydrate diet improved the deep sleep percentage of the study participants.
Supplement Your Sleep
Choosing to supplement your natural melatonin production can improve your sleep when taken correctly. It’s important to remember that melatonin doesn’t put you to sleep– it’s not a sleeping pill. What melatonin does is help you achieve a state of quiet, relaxed wakefulness that helps you transition into sleep when you take it about two hours before bedtime.
There are many melatonin options on the market. It’s important to choose one made from high-quality ingredients. You can also choose a synergistic combination of melatonin and other sleep-enhancing compounds. Rest by Vitaldiol combines melatonin with relaxing, calming CBD isolate to make it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and cycle through the sleep stages without interruption.
There’s nothing as important for your overall wellness as getting a good night’s sleep. Every stage of sleep is important, and getting quality deep sleep means that your body can recover from the wear and tear of the day. There are lots of little things you can do to improve your deep sleep, and that means better cognitive function, easier healing, and reduced inflammation. With all of the benefits, getting better deep sleep just makes sense!