Questions come in bucket loads with this topic – what is deep sleep? How do we increase deep sleep? Well, here at Innermost we are here to explain further!
The Stages Of Sleep
Throwing out some unusual terms here, but sleep can be split into two categories, REM and non-REM which translates to rapid eye movement. Throughout most of the night, your body experiences non-REM rest, with a briefer period of REM. It is stated that you don’t actually enter a REM stage until you have been asleep for around 90 minutes. But as the night goes on and the hours' tick by, your REM sleep gets longer, especially within the second half of the night. In total, the REM stage of sleep makes up around 25% of an adult’s night sleep. Interested in the different stages? Let’s divulge!
Stage 1 – Non-REM SleepThis initial stage classified as the ‘dozing off’ stage only lasts from one to five minutes. Your body begins to prepare for sleep and starts to relax and unwind, although full relaxation hasn’t been obtained just yet with the occasional occurrence of muscle twitches common. It’s not just your body that starts to chill out here, but your brain also begins its descent with activity petering out. We can be easily awoken in stage 1, but without any disturbance, flowing onto the next sleep stage is easy peasy.
Stage 2: Non-REM Sleep
Carrying on with non-REM sleep, stage 2 lasts longer for about 10-25 minutes per cycle, which subsequently can extend time-wise throughout the night. As a whole, we humans typically spend half of our sleeping time in stage 2 type sleep. That’s right, half! This second stage is like the first with your body sinking deeper into sleep and temperatures dropping, eye movements cease whilst brain waves slow further. Unlike the first, it is a lot trickier to be awoken from your slumber here.
Stage 3: Non-REM Deep Sleep
This third stage can also be known as deep sleep – which we spend most of the time in this cycle during the first half of the night. Where the other stage’s timeframe increases throughout the night, deep sleep actually decreases as time goes on – commonly lasting for 20 – 40 minutes and then being replaced with REM sleep instead. All rates decrease, including muscles, pulse, and breathing, and this is where experts have stated that restorative sleep begins which boosts the immune system, heals the body, and also contributes to creativity, memory, and insightful thinking – how cool!
REM Sleep Patterns
REM sleep occurs after the non-REM and during this stage, you are subject to:
Your eyes move rapidly from side to side
Your heart rate increases to near the state when you are awake
Your breathing picks up and can be irregular at times
You dream due to your brain activity increasing
Why Is Deep Sleep Important?
We have already mentioned the brief benefits that deep sleep entitles. Now we are not saying that the other stages of sleep are not important – all sleep stages are necessary for good health, but deep sleep in particular provides specific mental and physical benefits that the others don’t. Deep sleep is otherwise known as slow-wave sleep, and during this period the brain relaxes, and electrical activity appears in slow waves called delta waves. In return, our bodies release growth hormones which begin to repair and regulate the body, these include:
Immunity – deep sleep strengthens the immune system by supporting hormonal shifts associated with disease-carrying organisms.
Learning and memory – It is said that non-REM stages play a role in improving memory formation and promoting learning.
Clearing waste products – during the day, cerebrospinal fluid builds up and deep sleep can play a role in clearing this.
Hormone regulation – it helps to regulate several different hormones including prolactin and growth.
Energy restoration – as we know for any sleep, the body builds energy levels back up – but deep sleep in particular helps to strengthen the body again.
How To Improve Your Deep Sleep
After all that deep sleep knowledge, I’m sure you are now inquisitive as to how to improve your own – well fear not as there are many simple and easy ways you can switch up your daily and nightly habits to ensure both your mind and body are restored.
Turn off your devices - It is so easy to climb into bed and start scrolling through your Instagram feed or answering those forgotten text messages you left on read earlier in the day. However, limiting your screen time before you hit the hay and turning off your phone actually gives you a better fighting chance of falling asleep. The blue light from the device disrupts melatonin production which is a hormone that tells the brain it is time to sleep. So…you know what to do – a phone-free bedtime routine is impending, right?
Keep your bedroom dark and cool – speaking of this melatonin again, a dark and airy bedroom encourages its production. As for heat, well a study by the National Library of Medicine actually discovered that room temperature affects sleep and a really humid room can limit the amount of deep sleep time. We suggest buying breathable bedding, purchasing a fan, or wearing light pajamas.
Limit caffeine – we all get that urge to drink a cup of coffee before bed, but this is strictly forbidden if you want to get an adequate amount of shuteye. Now, this next bit will come as a surprise, but to banish that caffeine buzz it is stated that you need to halt consumption 6 hours before bedtime. That’s right – 6?! Caffeine takes a while to rid itself in your system, so you know what to do…drop your favorite blend and opt for a fruit tea instead. Just think about that night’s sleep!
Be mindful of food before bed – You would have thought that consuming a large meal before bed would make you more doozy and therefore more inclined to have a fantastic rest – wrong. Consuming a large amount of food within 1-2 hours of your bedtime can cause disruption as the body’s energy will be focused on digestion instead of restorative functions. Also, who wants acid reflux or cramps whilst trying to sleep? Not us! Instead have a small snack to balance out blood sugars.
Try Pink Noise – Pink noise, which is often compared to water and nature sounds, has been found to help people fall asleep faster and obtain more deep sleep throughout the night. It has been stated that this type of noise enhances sleep quality by slowing brain waves and in return generating stabilization.
Keep track – Lastly, for those of you who are questioning whether you do reach this prestigious deep sleep stage, then there are some incredible apps and gadgets out there that can help you track. Take Apple Watch for example, with the sleeping app, you can see the time you spend in each sleep stage throughout the night. Or there are many apps on the market that can help monitor like SleepScore.
Feeling sleepy yet? We sure are ready for bed! It’s incredible how just from 6, 7, or even 8 hours of sleep our bodies can repair themselves through the process of deep sleep. Sometimes with our busy schedules, we sacrifice getting that extra amount of shuteye, but now you can see the true benefits of stepping away from work, from your devices and hitting the hay. After all, don’t we want to jump into the new day feeling refreshed and ready to take on anything that life throws at us? Well…with these handy tips, you can! 1 sheep, 2 sheep…ah forget that counting to sleep is a thing of the past.