If you’re battling brain fog, feeling sluggish, or can’t seem to boost your energy levels no matter what you do, you might think you need more deep sleep. This may be the case, but it’s not quite as straightforward as that.
While deep sleep is hugely important for our health and how we feel each day, the other stages of sleep contribute to those things, too. Plus, you can’t really control how much deep sleep you get, but you can control how much sleep you get overall and what you do to impact that sleep for better or worse.
Below, we dive into what deep sleep is and how you can try to get more of it. But we also cover why you shouldn’t worry about deep sleep in particular, and what you should focus on doing instead to be at your best each day.
Deep sleep, or slow wave sleep, is one of the stages of sleep. These include four non-rapid eye movement stages (also known as non-REM sleep or NREM sleep) and one rapid-eye movement or REM stage.
You move through these different stages at night in a cycle that lasts 70 to 120 minutes in total. It’s different for each person, but ideally you’d get four to six of these cycles in a good night’s sleep.
Here’s what it looks like:
Once you’ve moved through all the stages of sleep, you’ll start another cycle from the beginning.
Deep sleep sounds like the kind of sleep we all want: restorative and energy-giving. But it’s not only that.
During deep sleep, your body works on:
Not getting enough deep sleep has been linked to conditions like heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease, and it messes with everything from your glucose metabolism to your long-term memory.
However, while there are plenty of benefits of deep sleep, it shouldn’t steal all the limelight. Getting enough of all of the stages of sleep each night is just as vital to our health and how we feel and function the next day.
So, if you’re looking to get more deep sleep because you want to boost your energy levels, health, mood, or productivity, anything you do to get more sleep overall will help.
It’s difficult to say how much deep sleep you should be getting. Deep sleep makes up 10% to 15% of your overall sleep time, but we all need a different amount of sleep, so the real hour-and-minutes amount of deep sleep you need can vary wildly. What’s more, you spend less time in the deep sleep stage as you age and more time in stage 2.
You can’t really control how much deep sleep you get and your body is very good at optimizing your sleep to get the right amounts of each stage if you give it a chance.
So, instead of worrying about how much deep sleep you get, you should just focus on getting the right amount of sleep for you each night and making sure that sleep is healthy and naturalistic. Deep sleep will then fall into place. Here’s how:
Your sleep need is the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not 8 hours of sleep for everyone. The average sleep need is 8 hours 10 minutes, plus or minus 44 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need 9 hours or more sleep a night.
The RISE app can work out your individual sleep need using your phone use behavior and proprietary sleep-science-based models. You’ll get a number to aim for in hours and minutes. Instead of working out how long you should spend in each sleep stage, your first priority should be meeting your overall sleep need.
Of course, getting enough sleep each night is easier said than done, but sleep hygiene can help. Sleep hygiene is the set of behaviors you can do throughout the day to help you get better sleep at night. Sleep hygiene also ensures the sleep you do get is healthy and natural, and it makes sure nothing gets in the way of you spending the right amount of time in each sleep stage.
Here’s what to do:
It sounds like a lot, but RISE can remind you when to do 20+ sleep habits so you stay on top of them each day and have a better chance of meeting your sleep need each night.
To make the most of sleep hygiene, you can time the behaviors to your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal body clock. It runs on a roughly 24-hour cycle and, amongst other things, it controls when you feel awake and sleepy.
Timing sleep hygiene to your circadian rhythm makes the behaviors more effective, but it also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, making sure you feel sleepy at the right times and therefore making you more likely to meet your sleep need each night.
Plus, there’s a time of night when your body naturally wants to sleep. In the RISE app, we call this your Melatonin Window. This is a roughly one-hour window when your brain’s rate of melatonin production will be at its highest.
Aim to go to sleep in this window and you’ll have a better chance of falling and staying asleep, hitting your sleep need and your deep sleep need as a result.
If you find out your sleep need is 8 hours 30 minutes, and you need to be up at 8:30 a.m. each day, it’s easy to think you just need to get into bed at midnight and you’ll hit your sleep need. But sleep latency and sleep fragmentation mean it doesn’t work that way. What do these terms mean?
These two terms combine to work out your sleep efficiency, or how long you spend in bed actually sleeping. If your sleep efficiency is low, you may spend 8 hours 30 minutes in bed, but only be asleep for 7 hours of that, meaning you won’t get enough sleep for you and possibly not enough deep sleep.
There are a few quick fixes for this:
It’s not always possible to meet your sleep need each and every night, and that’s where sleep debt comes in. Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body over the last 14 nights. If you regularly don’t get enough sleep, you’ll build up a lot of sleep debt and this’ll affect almost every aspect of your health and day.
If you’re not feeling as good as you’d like, you might be blaming this on not getting enough deep sleep, when really sleep debt might be the problem.
RISE makes keeping on top of your sleep debt easy. The app calculates how much sleep debt you have each day and keeps track of it as you work to pay it back or keep it low.
We recommend keeping sleep debt below five hours to reach your energy potential each day. You can learn how to catch up on sleep here. And by getting more sleep, you’ll be getting more deep sleep, too.
Above are our main tips for getting more deep sleep, which all focus on getting the right amount of sleep for you overall. However, there are a few things studies show can impact how much deep sleep you get specifically, either positively or negatively:
Our short answer is no. Here’s why:
Getting enough deep sleep is important for your health and how you feel each day. But there’s really not a lot you can do to control how much deep sleep you get each night. What you can control, however, is how much sleep you get overall and how naturalistic that sleep is (via good sleep hygiene).
If you want to boost your productivity, mood, or energy levels, use RISE to work out your sleep need and focus on getting this each night with the app’s timed reminders for 20+ sleep hygiene habits.
By getting the right amount of sleep for you, your body will do its thing and get the right amount of deep sleep, with no extra work on your part needed.
You may get little deep sleep if you’re not getting enough sleep overall, or if you’re doing things like drinking caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime. However, tracking is unreliable, so you likely don’t know how much deep sleep you’re getting in the first place. Get enough deep sleep by focusing on meeting your individual sleep need through good sleep hygiene.
Deep sleep makes up 10% to 15% of your total sleep time, but we all need a different amount of sleep, so the amount of deep sleep we need varies. Focus on getting enough sleep for you and your brain will make sure you’re getting the deep sleep you need.
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