How to Get More Deep Sleep? 16 Tips From a Sleep Expert

Get more deep sleep by getting enough sleep, getting light first thing, avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, eating more fiber, and exercising.
Updated
2024-02-17
17 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.

How to Get More Deep Sleep Naturally? 

  • We can’t really control how much deep sleep we get. If you’re getting enough sleep overall and following good sleep hygiene habits, you’ll probably be getting enough deep sleep.
  • You can get more deep sleep by improving your sleep hygiene (like avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime and getting light exposure first thing each morning), eating more fiber, taking a warm shower or bath before bed, and exercising. 
  • The RISE app can help you get more deep sleep by working out how much sleep you need and telling you the best time to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits daily.

Deep sleep is important for recovery, learning, and overall energy. But many factors can stop you from getting enough of it. 

Below, we’ll dive into how you can get more deep sleep at night, the benefits of deep sleep, and whether it’s something you should worry about (spoiler: it might not be).

A Sleep Doctor's Advice

“Don’t worry too much about how much deep sleep you’re getting. You can’t really control it or even accurately measure it. Instead, focus on getting enough sleep and maintaining good sleep hygiene. This will give you the best chance of getting enough deep sleep.”

Rise Science sleep advisor and medical reviewer Dr. Chester Wu

How to Get More Deep Sleep? 

Certain sleep hygiene behaviors can influence how much deep sleep you get at night. Here’s what to do to get more deep sleep. 

1. Get Enough Sleep Overall 

We can’t control how long our bodies spend in deep sleep, but we can control (to some extent) how much sleep we get overall. When you get enough healthy sleep (the kind of sleep you get from practicing good sleep hygiene), your body will spend the right amount of time in deep sleep for you. 

While most of your deep sleep will happen in the first half of the night, you still want to get enough sleep overall to make sure you’re getting enough REM and light sleep to feel and perform at your best. 

When you cut your sleep short, you can miss out on rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Your body may then take the chance to catch up on REM when it can — this is known as REM rebound. This extra REM sleep can disrupt your normal sleep architecture (how your sleep is structured) and could cause a loss of deep sleep on other nights.

Heads-up: We all need a different amount of sleep. This is determined by genetics and known as your sleep need. 

When we looked at the sleep needs of 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and up, we found they ranged from five hours to 11 hours 30 minutes.

The RISE app can work out how much sleep you need
The RISE app can work out how much sleep you need.

RISE uses a year’s worth of your phone use data and sleep science algorithms to work out how much sleep you need exactly. 

You can learn more about how much sleep you need here.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can view their sleep need here

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2. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule 

Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, even on your days off. 

Keeping a consistent sleep pattern helps to keep your circadian rhythm, or body clock, in check. This will help you feel sleepy at bedtime, so you fall asleep faster, get into deep sleep sooner, and get enough sleep (and therefore enough deep sleep).

The National Sleep Foundation now recommends (as of September 2023) consistent sleep times alongside their sleep duration guidelines. A consistent sleep schedule is important for health, safety, and performance, they say, while emphasizing that catching up on sleep on weekends may also be beneficial. 

2023 research shows sleep regularity may be a stronger predictor of all-cause mortality than sleep duration. 

You can learn more about what a good sleep schedule looks like here.

3. Get Light Exposure First Thing Each Morning 

Get out in light as soon as you can each morning and get as much natural light throughout the day as possible. 

Research shows high-intensity light exposure and getting light early in the day is linked to getting more deep sleep. 

Morning light can also reset your circadian rhythm for the day, helping to keep your sleep-wake cycle running smoothly. 

If it’s sunny out, aim for at least 10 minutes of light. If it’s overcast or you’re getting light through a window, aim for 15 to 20 minutes of light. If it’s dark out when you wake up, sit in front of a light therapy lamp that offers 10,000 lux of light exposure for 30 minutes.

4. Avoid Screens Before Bed 

Research from 2022 found spending 30 minutes on your phone in bed led to getting 20 minutes less deep sleep.  

Screens like your laptop, TV, tablet, and phone emit blue light, which can make it harder to drift off in the first place. 

We’ve covered more on screens before bed here, including how to use them wisely if you want to make them part of your bedtime routine. 

5. Avoid Caffeine Close to Bedtime 

A 2023 meta-analysis found caffeine can reduce your deep sleep and increase your light sleep. It can also cut into your overall sleep time. 

For the best sleep, avoid caffeine about 12 hours before bed. RISE can tell you when exactly to have your last cup of coffee. We’ve covered more on how long caffeine lasts here. 

RISE app screenshot showing when to limit your caffeine intake
The RISE app can tell you when to stop drinking coffee.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their limit caffeine reminder here.

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6. Avoid Alcohol Close to Bedtime 

One study found alcohol can reduce how much deep sleep you get, even in small doses. 

The research found a small dose of 0.16 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight can reduce deep sleep. For a person weighing about 70 kilograms (154 pounds), this translates to 11.2 grams of alcohol — or one standard drink, such as a 12-ounce serving of beer, 5-ounce serving of wine, or 1.5-ounce serving of spirits.

Alcohol can make you drowsy and fall asleep faster, but it can cause you to wake up more often in the night

Avoid alcohol three to four hours before bed to stop it from messing with your sleep. RISE can tell you when it’s last call based on your body clock. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late alcohol reminder.

We’ve covered more on whether alcohol helps you sleep here.

7. Exercise (at the Right Times) 

A 2021 sleep study found exercise can increase the stability of deep sleep, increasing the quality and consistency. 

When you work out may make a difference, but the research is mixed. One study found working out at 7 a.m. resulted in more time in deep sleep compared to working out at 1 p.m. Another study found high exercise exertion 1.5 hours before bed was linked to more deep sleep. 

Just be careful about vigorous exercise an hour before bed as it has been shown to keep you up. RISE can tell you when it’s best to do gentle activity instead. 

8. Try Cyclic Meditation 

Cyclic meditation involves yoga postures and periods of relaxation on your back. This calming activity could help you switch off and fall asleep faster, but it’s also been shown to increase deep sleep. 

One study found when participants practiced cyclic meditation twice in a day their percentage of deep sleep was significantly higher.

9. Eat More Fiber 

Research shows eating more fiber is linked to getting more deep sleep. 

Foods high in fiber include beans, nuts, seeds, broccoli, sweet potatoes, avocados, and whole grains.

The same research found getting a higher percentage of energy from saturated fat is linked to less deep sleep. 

Eating a healthy diet full of fruits, veggies, protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates can help you get better sleep and more energy.  

10. Consider Valerian Supplements 

Research shows valerian supplements can help insomniacs get more deep sleep. It’s also been shown to help elderly poor sleepers get more deep sleep. 

It’s not clear whether valerian extract could help those without sleep problems get more deep sleep, though. 

11. Listen to Pink Noise 

One very small study found pink noise played throughout the night at 40 and 50 decibels may increase deep sleep compared to pink noise played at 35 decibels. 

Another study found pink noise played during deep sleep increased slow brain wave activity in participants with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease). 

You can listen to pink noise like ocean, waterfall, and rainfall sounds in the RISE app. 

We’ve covered more on pink noise, white noise, and the best sounds for sleep here.

12. Take a Warm Shower or Bath Before Bed 

A 2019 meta-analysis found a warm bath or shower before bed can increase the amount of deep sleep you get. It also helps you fall asleep faster, spend less time awake during the night, and get more sleep overall. 

Warm water can also help your core body temperature drop before bed, which is needed to fall asleep. A 2023 study found even just immersing your feet in warm water can have this effect.

13. Take Time to Unwind Before Bed 

Stress and anxiety can keep you up at night, cutting into your sleep time.

It’s a common disruption, too. RISE users say stress and anxiety are the biggest barriers to getting a good night’s sleep. 

To help you unwind, spend the hour or so before bed doing relaxing activities. This can include taking a warm shower or bath, reading, listening to music, journaling, or doing yoga. 

You can learn more about science-backed bedtime routines for adults here.

14. Make Your Bedroom as Dark as Possible 

A small study found sleeping with the lights on can lead to more light sleep and less deep sleep. 

As well as turning out the lights, invest in blackout curtains, wear an eye mask, and cover up any electronics that emit light. 

We’ve covered more about the dangers of sleeping with the lights on here.

15. Improve Your Sleep Hygiene 

Sleep hygiene is the set of behaviors that influence your sleep. Good sleep hygiene will help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often, making it easier to get enough sleep. 

It includes many of the recommendations listed above.

Here’s a recap of what good sleep hygiene looks like: 

  • Get out in sunlight as soon as possible each morning
  • Avoid bright light about 90 minutes before bed 
  • Avoid intense exercise, large meals, caffeine, and alcohol too close to bedtime 
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet 
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule

To help you stay on top of it all, RISE can tell you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day. 

RISE app screenshot showing sleep hygiene reminders
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications here

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16. Get Treated for Sleep Disorders and Health Conditions 

People with sleep apnea may get less deep sleep, but this can be lengthened with treatment. We’ve covered how to know if you have sleep apnea here.

Those with depression may also get less deep sleep than usual, but sedating antidepressants can increase how much they get. 

Shallow sleep syndrome, or nonrestorative sleep, is when you can sleep, but sleep doesn’t refresh you. You might experience this if you have health conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome.

Speak to a doctor about treatment options if you think you have a sleep disorder, medical condition, or mental health condition. 

Why Do I Get So Little Deep Sleep? 

The most likely reason you get so little deep sleep is because you’re not getting enough sleep overall. Caffeine, alcohol, light exposure, and your diet can all impact how much deep sleep you get, and people with health conditions like depression and Alzheimer’s disease get less deep sleep. 

Tracking your sleep stages with a wearable device can be inaccurate, so you probably also don’t know how much deep sleep you’re really getting. 

It’s also hard to know how much deep sleep you need to begin with. The amount of deep sleep we need varies widely from person to person. You spend 10% to 25% of the night in deep sleep. So if you need eight hours of sleep, you’d need somewhere between 48 minutes and two hours of deep sleep. 

This will change depending on how much sleep you need, and it can change from night to night.

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What is Deep Sleep? 

Deep sleep, also called slow wave sleep, is one of the different stages of sleep. 

During deep sleep, your heart rate and breathing slow down and your brain activity produces patterns of slow brain waves known as delta waves.  

Experts believe most of our recovery takes place while in deep sleep. 

What Are the Stages of Sleep?

There are four stages of sleep: three stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep, or NREM sleep, and one stage of rapid-eye-movement sleep, or REM sleep. 

When you move through all of the stages of sleep, you complete one sleep cycle. This can take about 70 to 120 minutes. Depending on how much sleep you need, you might move through four to six sleep cycles a night.

Here’s what the stages of sleep look like: 

  • Stage 1: This stage only lasts for a few minutes as you first drift off. You can spend 2% to 5% of the night in stage 1. 
  • Stage 2: This stage is known as light sleep. Your breathing, heart rate, and brain activity start to slow down. Stage 2 can last from 10 to 25 minutes in the first sleep cycle and longer with each cycle. You may spend 45% to 55% of the night in stage 2. 
  • Stage 3 (deep sleep): Your breathing and heart rate slow even more and your brain activity produces delta waves. The deep sleep stage can last from 20 to 40 minutes in the first sleep cycle and will decrease with each sleep cycle. You may spend 10% to 25% of the night in deep sleep. Deep sleep is the hardest sleep stage to wake someone up from. You may feel more groggy if you’re woken up while in deep sleep compared to other sleep stages. 
  • REM sleep: You’re most likely to dream in this stage. Your eyes can be seen moving rapidly under your eyelids and most of your muscles are paralyzed to stop you from acting out your dreams. REM sleep may only last one to five minutes in the first cycle and it gets longer with each cycle. You may spend 20% to 25% of the night in REM. You can learn how much REM you need here.

What Are the Benefits of Deep Sleep? 

The benefits of deep sleep include: 

  • Strengthening your immune system 
  • Detoxifying your brain 
  • Secreting human growth hormone from your pituitary gland, which helps cells regenerate and repair 
  • Creating and consolidating new memories and skills you’ve learned  
  • Regulating your glucose metabolism 

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

If you don’t get enough deep sleep, you’ll feel low on energy and your immune system, long-term memory, skin health, and glucose metabolism can all be affected. 

Not getting enough deep sleep has also been linked to health conditions such as:

If you’re not getting enough deep sleep, you may not be getting enough sleep in general. 

Sleep deprivation can lead to: 

How Much Deep Sleep Do You Need? 

How much deep sleep you need depends on how much sleep you need overall. 

You spend 10% to 25% of your sleep time in deep sleep, so if you need eight hours of sleep, you’d need 48 minutes to two hours of deep sleep. 

But there are no set guidelines for deep sleep as it’s so individual. The amount of deep sleep you need changes across your lifespan (kids get more than adults and we get less as we age). 

It can also change from day to day. A 2023 study found the percentage of time participants spent in deep sleep (as well as other sleep stages) changed over the course of five nights. 

You may get more deep sleep after very intense exercise. And if you pull an all-nighter, your body might spend more time in deep sleep the next time you head to bed to make up for what it’s missed out on. 

We’ve covered more on how much deep sleep you need here. 

Should I Worry About Deep Sleep?

Our short answer is no. Here’s why: 

  • Your body knows what it’s doing: The amount of deep sleep you need can change from night to night. If you’re getting enough sleep and have good sleep hygiene, your brain will self-optimize and spend the right amount of time in deep sleep for you. 
  • You can’t control it: Even if you follow all of the above tips, you can’t control how long you’ll spend in deep sleep or any other stage, so why worry about it?
  • You can’t accurately measure it: At-home sleep tracking isn’t an accurate way of measuring how long you spend in each sleep stage. It’s tricky to know whether you’re getting enough deep sleep.
  • Research is inconclusive: For example, one study shows couples got more deep sleep when they slept without their partner, while another study found couples got more deep sleep when they shared a bed. The same goes for cannabis and sleep. There are studies showing it can both increase and decrease deep sleep. 
  • You’ll do things as part of good sleep hygiene anyway: Many of the things you can do to boost deep sleep you’d do as part of a good sleep hygiene routine — like avoiding caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime. 
  • Every sleep stage is important: Don’t focus on deep sleep and forsake the other stages. Each stage is important for your health and well-being. 

RISE doesn’t track your deep sleep. Instead, we track the two biggest factors influencing how you feel and perform each day: your sleep debt and circadian rhythm

Heads-up: Sleep debt is how much sleep you owe your body. You can learn more about sleep debt here, including how to pay it back.

If you do want to track deep sleep alongside your sleep debt and circadian rhythm, RISE syncs with wearable devices like Apple Watch, Oura, Garmin, and Fitbit.

Users have found that when they reduce their sleep debt, their sleep stages improve too. 

“After taking sleep debt more seriously with RISE, I’ve found my sleep stages tracked by the Apple Watch have started to improve as a result of reducing the sleep debt.” 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can view their sleep debt here

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Get More Sleep to Get More Deep Sleep 

We can’t really control how much deep sleep we get. But getting enough sleep overall and following good sleep hygiene practices are the best ways to increase your odds of getting enough deep sleep. 

The RISE app can work out how much sleep you need, so you know what to aim for each night, and guide you through 20+ good sleep habits each day. 

You could be getting enough (deep) sleep within the week — 80% of RISE users get more sleep within five days of using the app. 

Summary FAQs

How to get more deep sleep?

Get more deep sleep by getting enough sleep overall and improving your sleep hygiene, which includes keeping a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, exercising, eating more fiber, and taking a warm shower or bath before bed.

How to get more deep sleep naturally?

Get more deep sleep naturally by getting enough sleep overall and improving your sleep hygiene, which includes keeping a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, exercising, eating more fiber, and taking a warm shower or bath before bed.

What causes a lack of deep sleep?

A lack of deep sleep can be caused by not getting enough sleep overall, poor sleep hygiene, consuming caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, poor diet, or medical conditions and sleep disorders like sleep apnea, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Does melatonin help you get more deep sleep?

Melatonin doesn’t appear to help you get more deep sleep directly. Melatonin works best when it’s used to change the timing of your circadian rhythm, rather than forcing you to fall asleep. If you have jet lag or are shifting your sleep schedule, melatonin can help you get enough sleep on a better schedule for you, and therefore may help you get enough deep sleep.

What supplements increase deep sleep?

Valerian supplements may increase deep sleep. Studies show CBD doesn’t affect deep sleep, and cannabis may increase it or decrease it. Other supplements like magnesium and melatonin can help you get more sleep, but it’s not clear if they can help you get more deep sleep or not.

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