How to Get More Deep Sleep

Written by
Purple Staff
Last Updated
December 6, 2022
|
8
min read

If you feel like you never get enough sleep. It is more common than you think and there may be a reason for it.

There are a variety of things you can do to get more deep sleep to feel rested each day.  Even though you may be sleeping, you may not be getting the amount of deep sleep that you need to restore your mind and body. Follow these tips to learn how to get the deep sleep you need to function properly.

5 Tips to Get More Deep Sleep

A restless night or two may throw you off. But a pattern of sleep deprivation can cause health problems. Even if you’re getting the suggested seven to nine hours of sleep per night, you could find out how to get more deep sleep. During the deepest stage of sleep, your body and brain revitalize and promote better health, learning, and memory. 

Here are some helpful tips to help you sleep deeply each night:

Have A Bedtime Routine

Your body has an internal clock, known as its circadian rhythm, that controls your sleep-wake cycle. Many factors can disrupt your circadian rhythm and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

But you can establish a sleep schedule that trains your mind and body to stay in rhythm. Start by picking a designated bedtime, and go to bed at that time every night. It’s important to wake up at the same time each morning as well. Keep these sleep patterns consistent, even on weekends and vacations.

Let Yourself Relax

Plan a routine that you can follow to ease yourself into sleep each evening. Start your bedtime ritual at least a half-hour before you want to turn in for the night. Maybe you can fix yourself a cup of soothing warm milk or chamomile tea to help relax. Consider taking a warm bath or shower. If you choose to read before bed, pick light topics that won’t stimulate your brain and lead to wakefulness.

Remember to avoid caffeine in the evenings. If you want a snack, choose something light, and don’t eat spicy or acidic foods that could cause reflux. Make sure your room is free of bright light and consider a quality mattress and a white-noise machine to promote good sleep. Some people may appreciate room-darkening curtains and earplugs.

Don’t Use Electronics Before Bed

It can be tempting to check email, scan the news, check the weather, or send a text before you go to bed. But you’ll enjoy a more restful sleep if you avoid electronics for at least 60 to 90 minutes before turning in. In other words, you should not watch TV or use laptops, computers, tablets, and phones near bedtime.

Why are electronics an issue? Electronics emit artificial blue light that has short wavelengths. During the day, blue light creates more alertness and energy, but it can be overstimulating at night. Plus, blue light can disrupt your circadian rhythm and diminish melatonin production. Being mindful of your electronic use is critical if you want to sleep more deeply.

Know Your Ideal Sleep Temperature

If you’re too hot or too cold at night, sleep can be elusive. This means that you should avoid piling on blankets and set your thermostat to a lower temperature. Although comfort levels vary, most adults sleep well if the temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees.

Keep in mind that sleeping with others can raise your sleep temperature. You may enjoy snuggling with a partner, pet, or child. You may want to eliminate some layers of bedding if you do share your bed with someone else. If you have enough space to spread out, that will help ensure the ideal sleeping temperature.

Get A Good Quality Mattress And Pillow

If you want to learn how to get more deep sleep, you should know that quality mattresses and pillows are essential.

What mattresses are best? Sleep experts recommend a breathable, supportive, pressure-relieving mattress that can adapt to your body and sleep positioning. Look for mattresses that alleviate pressure on your back, hips, and shoulders. Seek out a mattress with good airflow that helps you stay cool even on hot nights.

Make Good Sleep Choices Throughout The Day

You may not think about it much, but the choices you make during the day can help you sleep more deeply at night. One of the best ways to get more deep sleep is to evaluate your daytime behaviors and lifestyle choices.

Nothing helps you get good sleep like exercise. Research shows that people who do cardio regularly get more deep sleep during the night. Experiment with an exercise schedule to see what works best for you. If exercising gives you energy, work out in the morning or early in the day. But if you feel relaxed after exercising, an evening workout can help tire you out before bed.

To Nap Or Not To Nap?

There is some debate about napping. Some people find that a short afternoon nap can be beneficial. But take care not to nap too late in the day or for too long. A late nap can disrupt your sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep. And if you take a long nap, you may enter deep sleep stages during the day. This can also make falling asleep more difficult at bedtime.

What Is Deep Sleep?

Deep sleep is known scientifically as slow-wave sleep. This type of sleep only happens in your third stage of non-rapid eye movement sleep or NREM sleep. When you’re in a deep sleep state, your brain's electrical activity slows down to a 0.5 to 2-hertz frequency known as delta waves.

Deep sleep usually happens within about an hour after you first fall asleep, provided you don’t experience any interruptions to your regular sleeping pattern. Your first period of deep sleep is the longest, and you experience shorter and shorter deep sleep periods the longer you stay asleep.

While you’re sleeping deeply, your heart rate and breathing slow, and your muscles start to relax. This is typically the stage where you’re hardest to wake up. If you do happen to wake up during a deep sleep cycle, you can experience grogginess and mental fog while your brain tries to return to normal function.

What Are The Benefits Of Deep Sleep?

The benefits of deep sleep stem are increased focus and memory retention, a healthier immune system, and replenished energy stores, to name a few. Deep sleep is characterized by the delta waves that activate when you’re deep in non-REM sleep.

Deep sleep is the most restorative type of sleep, as it’s when your body recharges physically and mentally. While in a deep sleep stage, your body releases human growth hormone, which is what your body uses to build and maintain the tissue in your muscles, bones, brain, and soft tissue. This also helps boost your immune system function.

While your body is recharging and repairing itself during deep sleep, so is your brain. Deep sleep delta waves help reinforce your neural pathways, leading to better memory and cognitive ability. Deep sleep also improves your brain’s language centers and motor skill pathways and is very important in the development of young brains.

Your brain is constantly processing thousands upon thousands of little points of information daily, whether consciously or unconsciously. Deep sleep helps your brain efficiently organize and recall information that you take in during your waking hours.

Elite athletes make sure they get enough deep sleep not only for its role in repairing damaged muscles and tissue but also because deep sleep has been shown to regulate metabolism and replenish lost energy.

Because deep sleep has been linked to better brain function, it is also known to affect your mood, appetite, and libido. After a good night’s sleep, you may notice that you feel more refreshed, with higher energy levels and a better appetite for your first meal of the day. 

The recommended time for restful, restorative sleep is eight to ten hours of sleep, with about 13% to 23% of it spent in deep sleep.

What Happens if You Don't Get Enough Deep Sleep?

If you don’t get enough deep sleep, you may feel bodily and mental fatigue when you wake up. This fatigue can persist throughout the day and manifest as tiredness, moodiness, and irritability. Most people call this “waking up on the wrong side of the bed”.

Feeling tired is the most obvious symptom, but lack of deep sleep also affects many different parts of your body. Your brain organizes and consolidates information in your neural pathways during deep sleep, so even a single night of bad or insufficient deep sleep can have detrimental effects on your ability to learn and retain information.

But your brain isn’t the only part of your body suffering. Lack of deep sleep can lower immune system function, making you more vulnerable to infections and decreasing your immune system’s vaccine response. When you’re in a deep sleep cycle, your brain also eliminates waste products. If you don’t let your brain do some spring cleaning, you can become more likely to advance certain neurological ailments like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.

Lack of deep sleep can also lead to hormonal changes in your body. When you’re sleep deprived, your body releases less leptin and more ghrelin, two of the primary hormones that control your hunger and appetite. This stimulates the regions in your brain that are sensitive to food stimuli, making you crave high-calorie foods.

Deep sleep deprivation has been linked to increases in insulin resistance and can cause you to develop type 2 diabetes and increase your risk of heart disease

However, missing a night of deep sleep isn’t the end of the world. If you’re able to catch up on sleep, your body can reverse some of the negative effects.

Signs You May Not Be Getting Enough Deep Sleep

Sleep deprivation is no joke, and a lack of deep sleep can leave you with both physical and mental side effects. Here are a few signs that you’re not getting enough deep sleep: 

You Feel Sluggish And Tired

One of the biggest signs that you’re not getting enough deep sleep is an overwhelming feeling of fatigue and exhaustion upon waking up. Deep sleep allows the brain to rest and process the information you’ve gathered during the day. If you don’t have enough deep sleep, your brain will be working overtime behind the scenes while your conscious mind struggles to keep up.

 You Experience Acne Breakouts

Deep sleep controls the optimal release of hormones in your body and not enough of it can cause an overdose of certain hormones, which can lead to spontaneous acne breakouts.

You Feel Ill

Your immune system relies on deep sleep, so you may be more prone to various health issues without enough of it. You can put yourself at a higher risk of catching a disease like the flu or other viruses.

You Crave High-Calorie Food

A lack of deep sleep throws the balance of ghrelin and leptin (the hormones that control your hunger and appetite) into chaos. If you’re sleep-deprived, you might notice that you crave junk food more than usual, and you might even feel the urge to eat more than you usually do.

Your Eyes Don’t Look Great

If you don’t get enough shut-eye, your eyes will show it. Deep sleep repairs many of your body’s soft tissues, and too little of it can leave you with eyebags, dark circles, redness, or puffiness around your peepers. In the long term, you can also develop wrinkles, swelling, droopiness, and lines around your eyes if you don’t get enough rest.

You Experience Focus And Memory Trouble

When you’re in a deep sleep cycle, your brain organizes and declutters your short-term memory centers. When you don’t get enough deep sleep, your short-term memory centers don’t get the chance to process all the stored information and can be overloaded when you wake up. This leads to an inability to focus and forgetfulness.

You Consume More Caffeine

If your usual cup of joe doesn’t do it for you, you may be lacking sleep. An extra shot of caffeine to start your day is a short-term solution with long-term side effects. Upping your caffeine dosage to match your sleep-deprived state can lead to anxiety and insomnia down the road.

You Feel Irritable Or Depressed

Deep sleep offers your mind a chance to decompress and relieve stress. Studies show that deep sleep helps with your mood. If you deprive your brain of deep sleep, you can feel irritable and prone to outbursts and mood swings. 

You can also feel depressed, which can lead to insomnia, which makes you feel depressed, ad infinitum. Getting enough deep sleep is linked with keeping you happy and more emotionally stable.

Sleep Disorders Associated With Deep Sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has a term for sleep disorders linked to deep sleep: disorders of arousal. These specific sleep disorders include sleep terrors, confusional arousal, and sleepwalking. Some rarer instances involve sleep-related sexual behaviors and eating disorders. These disorders are terrifying for anyone experiencing them, but they are more common in young children and adolescents than in adults. 

People who experience disorders of arousal usually don’t recall the episodes after they happen, but these disorders can have negative effects that last even after they wake up. Some people who suffer from disorders of arousal can experience extreme sleepiness in the daytime, while other sufferers can inadvertently cause themselves or others physical harm.

If you think you may be suffering from disorders of arousal, consult your doctor to see if there is a treatment or sleep study that can help you overcome these unwelcome disorders.

 

Understanding The Stages of Sleep

When you’re trying to improve your sleep quality, it’s essential to understand the sleep stages. Many people wonder: “How many stages of sleep are there?”

You may have heard of REM sleep, which is when vivid dreams occur. REM stands for “rapid eye movement.” There are three non-REM (NREM) sleep cycle stages as well.

While sleeping, we journey through each of these sleep phases. We begin with stage 1 sleep, then pass through stages 2 and 3. However, we don’t go from stage 3 sleep to REM sleep. Instead, we actually go back through stage 2 and stage 1 before finally entering the REM sleep phase.

Each sleep cycle takes between 90 and 110 minutes, and we go through several sleep cycles each night.

Stage 1 NREM Sleep

Stage 1 is the transition between sleep and wakefulness. At this stage, sleep is very light. Your body starts to relax and prepare you for the next sleep stage. Your eyes move slowly, and your body may experience some mild jerks or spasms. When drifting in and out of this stage of sleep, you can have a falling sensation.

If you wake from stage 1 sleep, you may feel like you haven’t even been asleep. Noises or disruptions can easily rouse you during the light sleep of stage 1.

Stage 2 NREM Sleep

Typically, most people spend 40% to 60% of their total sleep time in stage 2 sleep. During stage 2, frequent awakenings are less common. Your brain waves slow down as you relax into a deeper stage of sleep. 

According to sleep researchers, two types of brain waves mark Stage 2 sleep: K complexes and sleep spindles.

What is a K complex? It is a large wave that can occur in response to stimuli, such as noises in your sleep environment. Spindles are brief bursts of brain activity that decline rapidly. Research suggests that sleep spindles help refresh our brains and make us more ready to learn.

Stage 3 NREM Sleep

Stage 3 is when our deepest, most restorative slow-wave sleep occurs. At this stage, our brain waves — called delta waves — are very slow. It’s difficult to awaken someone from stage 3 sleep.

Overall, we spend far less time in stage 3 sleep than in stage 2. For most adults, stage 3 is between 5% to 15% of our total sleep time. Children and adolescents typically spend more time sleeping in stage 3.

Although we only need a small amount of deep stage 3 sleep waves, this phase of sleep is critical for good health. Once you start to practice good sleep habits, you can start to increase how much deep sleep you get each night.

REM Sleep

What is REM sleep? REM is an active sleep state when dreams occur. Often, if you wake during REM sleep, you will remember your dreams. Researchers have found that everyone dreams, although not everyone remembers dreaming.

During REM sleep, muscle paralysis occurs. Sleep experts speculate that this paralysis happens to prevent people from acting out their dreams. Respiration, body temperature, and heart rate may become irregular during REM sleep.

Why Is Deep Sleep Important?

Deep sleep is critical for your well-being – your body and mind are revitalized during the deepest sleep stage each night, even though you only spend a short time in this phase.

While sleeping deeply, your pituitary gland secretes the human growth hormone. This hormone refreshes your muscles and helps you recover from the stressors of each day. Also, during stage 3, your immune system restores itself. You experience cell regeneration along with an increase in blood flow throughout your body.

During this restorative, restful period of sleep, your body can work on repairing tissues and bones. In addition, glucose metabolism in your brain increases, and this enhances your short-term and long-term memory.

If your sleep quality is poor, you’re unlikely to reach levels of deeper sleep. This scenario can make you vulnerable to health consequences, such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Deeper sleep just might be the key to health and longevity.

Deep Sleep Can Revolutionize Your Life

Activities and distractions cause many of us to stay up later. Unfortunately, bad sleep habits and sleep disorders are all too common. However, a lack of sleep can lead to many severe health consequences, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Sleep problems can harm emotional health as well.

If you aren’t sleeping enough, you’re likely missing out on restorative deep sleep. During deep sleep, our bodies and minds regenerate and give us the energy we need to navigate our days. Everyone needs enough time in stage 3, where delta sleep waves occur, for optimal well-being.

Key Takeaways

Deep sleep is the most important part of your sleep cycle. During deep sleep, your brain waves slow down into delta waves, and your body is able to repair and regenerate muscle, bone, and soft tissue. Some of your key hormones are also timed to release during deep sleep, helping you regulate your metabolism and restore your energy levels for the day.

Without a sufficient amount of deep sleep, your mind and body can suffer greatly. If you’re sleep-deprived, you’ll feel tired, irritable, unfocused, hungry, and moody. Caffeine doesn’t solve this either, as you can overshoot your regular consumption and end up suffering from insomnia.

 The best way to keep your mind and body at optimal function is to make sure you get enough deep sleep every night. If you struggle to sleep deeply, you may need to find and eliminate things that can mess with your sleep before turning in at night, or you might need to find the right mattress for your style of sleeping.

Deep Sleep FAQs

What causes a lack of deep sleep?

Deep sleep can be caused by a variety of conditions, the biggest cause of which is insomnia. This, in itself, can be caused by a myriad of other things, including stress, depression, anxiety, bad sleep habits, abnormal circadian rhythm, and even certain medications.

Sleep disorders like sleep apnea, snoring, night terrors, and sleepwalking can also cause a lack of deep sleep. Sleepwalking and night terrors specifically are disorders of arousal that are directly linked to deep sleep and can adversely affect the amount of deep sleep your body actually gets.

How can I sleep deeper naturally?

You can sleep deeper naturally by developing a consistent sleep routine and following it to the letter every day. If you smoke, drink alcohol or caffeine, or consume a lot of sugar, you might consider tapering these things off to get a better night’s sleep.

Finding your ideal sleep temperature and keeping your room dark before bedtime will help your body naturally become sleepy. It also helps to know what kind of sleeper you are – getting a mattress that matches your sleep style works wonders for the quality of your sleep.

Which food is good for deep sleep?

There are a few natural foods that are good for getting deep sleep, such as almonds, walnuts, white rice, kiwis, chamomile or passionflower tea, turkey, tart cherries and their juice, fatty fish, and malted milk.