The power of deep sleep
The power of deep sleep
We all know sleep is crucial to our health, but deep sleep in particular is what plays the most powerful part of all. Deep sleep is good sleep and as with every sleep stage, is essential for feeling rested and remaining healthy, so you can function at your best each day. Read on to find out what exactly deep sleep is, the restorative benefits and how much you should be getting each night.
Stages of sleep
When you fall into a peaceful slumber, your body cycles through four sleep stages. It takes around 90-120 minutes to cycle through all sleep stages and adults have around 4-6 cycles each night. During the first half of the night, you spend more time in NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep and as the night goes on, more time is spent in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The stages of sleep are as follows:
Stage 1 - this short, drowsy stage is the transition to sleep, where your breathing and heart rate slow down.
Stage 2 - during this stage your breathing and heart rate slow even more, your body temperature drops and muscles relax. This stage lasts longer with each cycle during the course of the night with about half of your total sleep time spent in this phase.
Stage 3 - this stage is slow-wave sleep, which is the deepest part of sleep. Your brain waves are at their slowest frequency during this third stage..
REM - in this stage, your eyes move quickly beneath your eyelids and brain activity is similar to when you’re awake. But your relaxed muscles do not move. Dreams during REM sleep are the most vivid and memorable.
What is deep sleep?
So now you have an understanding of the stages of sleep, let’s focus more on what happens in a deep sleep. Also known as slow-wave sleep, deep sleep happens within one hour of falling asleep, and as the night wears on, you’ll experience progressively shorter periods of deep sleep. When you’re in a deep sleep, electrical activity in the brain appears in long slow waves called delta waves, which have a frequency of 0.5-2 Hertz.
During deep sleep, your body’s automatic functions, such as breathing and heart rate slow and your muscles relax. It’s also difficult to wake someone up from a deep sleep, and if you do wake up, you will feel groggy for around an hour, which is why waking gradually can give you a better, more awake start to the day - routine is key to achieving this.
Benefits of deep sleep
Even though each stage of sleep benefits your overall health, deep sleep is what leaves you feeling rested and restored and has specific physical and mental benefits.
Slow wave sleep is when your body releases lots of restorative hormones such as growth hormone and works to build and repair muscles, bones and tissues and is vital to a functioning immune system. It also boosts memory consolidation and cognitive function.
What’s more, there’s been discoveries in the past decade that have revealed the brain flushes away harmful waste during deep sleep, the removal of this waste actually helps your brain to process and store memories.
The discovery of this brain infrastructure - known as the glymphatic system - brought about new research and innovation, not only about sleep, but also aging, dementia and brain injury, leading to the publication of many research papers.
How much deep sleep do I need?
Most adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep and this gives the body sufficient time for the deeper stages of sleep, and 12-20% of our over all night time sleep should be deep sleep.
If you are suffering from sleep deprivation or get short amounts of sleep over the course of a week, then you may spend more time in deep sleep. Also, as we age, less time is spent in deep sleep and more time is spent in light sleep.
What are the signs I’m not getting enough deep sleep?
Not getting enough deep sleep can leave you with a feeling of fatigue, along with a number of other negative effects on your body. You may have trouble consolidating new memories and a lack of sleep can lead to an increase in appetite for high calorie food. But by catching up on sleep, you can help to reverse some of these negative effects. If you’re providing yourself with enough opportunity to sleep for the recommended 7-9 hours per night then these could be signs you are not getting enough deep sleep:
Not feeling refreshed
Reduced alertness and attention
Find it hard to learn and form new memories
Crave high calorific food
How can I get more deep sleep?
Making sure to stick to a consistent sleep-wake schedule helps to develop a healthy sleep routine for your body. So, getting the quality sleep you need each night goes a long way to helping you get the right amount of deep sleep as our bodies will produce the right amount of each sleep stage if given enough time and the right environment. If you struggle to get the sleep you need, there are a number of things that can help, including:
A mattress that offers the right support and comfort levels can play a vital role in helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Create the best sleep environment - your bedroom should be dark, cool and quiet
Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
Get plenty of regular exercise consisting of 20-30 minutes each day. This can be as simple as walking. This exercise should not be too close to bedtime or it may affect your sleep.
Eat a healthy diet, and avoid large meals close to bedtime.
Reduce your caffeine intake, and avoid caffeine in the evenings.
Create a wind-down routine. Find something relaxing such as reading a book, or listening to relaxing music to calm you and signal to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep.