Do you get a solid seven or eight hours of sleep every night but just never feel recharged? Do you find yourself needing to nap just to get through your day?
Sometimes just getting the required amount of hours isn’t quite enough. What really matters is the quality of your sleep.
Deep sleep is what we need to replenish our energy and wake up feeling ready to take on the world.
If you’re interested in finding out how to get more deep sleep so you can improve your rest, your health, and your life, keep reading!
What Is Deep Sleep?
Deep sleep is when your brain waves and body functions slow down. This happens at stages 3 and 4 of your sleep cycle. Contrary to popular belief, REM sleep is not deep sleep!
Getting to deep sleep is a process. During stages 1 and 2 of the sleep cycle, the body slows down and gets into a state of deep relaxation.
- Heartbeat slows down.
- Breathing rate decreases.
- Eye movements get slower.
- Core temperature drops.
- Brain activity slows but has some sporadic bursts of activity.
Stage 3 and 4 is when you enter deep sleep, also known as delta sleep or slow-wave sleep.
- Your brain waves slow down.
- Your muscles become paralyzed.
This is where we really need quality rest! After these stages, we move into REM sleep. REM sleep is characterized by brain waves that are very similar to when we’re awake.
The Benefits of Deep Sleep
There’s a reason our bodies need deep sleep so much. The benefits are many, and include:
When you’re getting proper rest, not only do day-to-day injuries heal quicker, but you may notice improvements in conditions that you’ve had for a while. Blood pressure may even out, blood sugar may stabilize, and mental health improves too.
Just getting your 7-8 hours isn’t enough if you’re not spending enough time in deep sleep. In fact, most of us could do with some tips on how to get more deep sleep, because almost half of us get too little sleep as it is!
You know those times you get 8 hours of sleep but you wake up feeling exhausted? That’s because you didn’t get enough deep sleep… And so you’re actually energy-deprived.
While your body is doing all its healing, it’s also restoring energy. In deep sleep, your muscles are being bathed in blood and oxygen, fueling them for the day ahead. Your immune system and digestive system are being strengthened.
When you wake up after a really great night’s sleep and you find it easy to get out of bed, that’s how you know your deep sleep went well during the night!
Your physical health isn’t the only thing that benefits. Your mental health will improve when you’re getting the right amount of rest.
Waking up after a great deep sleep means a better mood, increased patience, better concentration, and improved productivity.
How To Get More Deep Sleep… Naturally
Now that we understand the importance of deep sleep, it should make perfect sense that this is the kind of sleep we need more of! It’s all fine and well to be making sure we get our 8 hours. But there are some measures you can take to make sure you don’t just get sleep, but good, deep sleep.
Set A Bedtime
You may roll your eyes and think “I’m no longer a kid” with this one, but it’s actually a super effective way to begin your sleep routine.
The body and brain are fascinating things. They interact in a way that science is still learning new things about. What we do know is that if your brain expects you to be going to sleep at a certain time every day, it starts to prepare in advance.
Choosing a time that you get in bed every night doesn’t mean you get comfy at 10pm and play video games for an hour. It also doesn't mean doing a non-electronic activity like reading a book before lying down. Bedtime means the time you turn the light off, put your head down, and close your eyes.
By training your brain and body into knowing that 10pm is when they need to shut down, you’re getting a head start on a good rest. They’ll start to fall asleep quicker, and stay asleep for longer.
Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
It’s all good getting your brain and body in the right frame of mind for a great rest. But if the environment isn’t conducive for sleep then you’re almost wasting your time.
Spend a bit of time creating a sleep-friendly environment. Some things to focus on are:
- Making sure the temperature is comfortable.
- Noise-proofing the room if necessary.
- Using a sleep mask if it’s not dark enough.
- Making sure you have a comfortable pillow.
That way, you’re less likely to be woken by light, sound, discomfort, or being too hot or cold. Eliminating potential sleep-disrupting problems from the start can make a huge difference!
If you start your sleep off the wrong way, chances are it’s going to carry on through the night “the wrong way”. By this, I mean that if you’re eyeballing your phone up until the moment you fall asleep, chances are you aren’t going to have a great night’s sleep, thanks to your brain being too stimulated by blue light and information.
There are some great benefits to sleeping with your phone in another room. But the majority of us prefer having our phones nearby in case of an emergency. Many of us also use our phones as our alarm clocks!
The problem this creates is that it’s extremely tempting to pick it up and do stuff with it before sleeping. We can fall into this trap in the middle of the night too! Even just checking it exposes your body to its glow all over again.
It’s commonly accepted that the blue light emitted by phones disrupts the production of the hormone melatonin. This hormone regulates our sleep/wake cycle. Even e-readers have been shown to cause some problems falling asleep.
I recommend going device-free for at least an hour before your bedtime. Say goodnight and do something to relax before closing your eyes. Try:
- Reading a book (a real, paper one!).
- Doing some light exercise.
- Spending some time on a hobby, such as drawing or playing a musical instrument.
Basically, anything that doesn’t involve screen time! And screen time includes TV. It’s also advisable to invest in a real alarm clock!
Get Physical Exercise
When it comes to how to get more deep sleep, some physical exercise during the day can do wonders. Have you ever been on a hike or spent a couple of hours in the garden doing physical work? Ever noticed how exhausted you are that night? Yep!
It doesn’t really matter what exercise you choose to do. There are many ways to incorporate some extra exercise into your day - it’s just a matter of choosing what works for you!
- Invest in a skipping rope.
- Start calisthenics.
- Commit to cleaning the house every day!
- Walk/run to the store instead of driving.
- Take a jog around the block.
- Walk the dog.
- Start a yoga practice.
Avoid Eating & Drinking Too Late
This one may be surprising. Your body does a lot of its maintenance work at night, and digestion is one of those activities.
Although we usually don’t notice the body digesting stuff, this process can disrupt our sleep. If you’ve eaten a heavy meal late in the evening, your digestive system may need to work overtime to break it down.
This could mean that your body doesn’t relax as much as you’d like it to. So the rest you’re getting is not as effective as it could be.
It’s not difficult to remedy this, though. Here are some tips:
- Eat earlier in the evening - at least 4 or 5 hours before bedtime.
- Eat lighter - heavy meals will take longer to digest.
It’s also a good idea to not drink caffeinated drinks for at least 4 hours before bedtime. Caffeine keeps your brain stimulated, so it’s much harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
It may be worth not drinking anything for at least the last hour before you go to sleep. If your body is waking you up to run to the bathroom, you’re only shooting yourself in the foot!
It’s definitely worth implementing some of these ideas if you’re interested in finding out how to get more deep sleep. You may be surprised how much better you feel when your deep sleep is no longer interrupted.
Give some of these a try and see if they help. Remember, consistency is key! Stick to a routine for a couple of weeks at least before deciding if it works for you or not.
If not, there are other things you can try! Read our article on how to stop waking up at 3am for a few more ideas. Let us know how they work out for you!