It's no secret that the majority of people could benefit from a deep sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every three American adults does not receive the required amount of deep sleep daily. The quality of our sleep is just as important as the duration of our sleep. Every night, our brains cycle through four stages of sleep, with studies claiming that the third stage, often known as deep sleep, is critical for receiving more high-quality sleep.
But what exactly deep sleep is, and how can you make sure you're getting enough of it?
We'll break down the fundamentals of deep sleep and show you how to get more of it for better health and wellness (hint: a Better Sleep weighted blanket can help!).
What deep sleep is?
So, what does deep sleep entail? Let's discuss the different stages of sleep before we answer it.
Sleep is a cyclical process, not a linear one, as many people believe. When you sleep at night, your brain goes through a series of sleep cycles, each of which lasts about 90 minutes. Your brain alternates between two phases of sleep during each sleep cycle: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
The lack of eye movement, as well as increased slow-wave activity and bursts of brain activity known as spindles, characterize NREM sleep. This period of sleep is divided into three parts:
Stages of Deep Sleep
Stage 1 (N1): This is the lightest and shortest sleep state. Your breathing and pulse rate will be regular during N1, and your body will relax in preparation for sleep.
Stage 2 (N2): The N2 stage follows the drowsy N1 stage, allowing for a decline in body temperature and respiratory rate. Spindles, which are thought to play a crucial part in memory consolidation, are also present during this period.
Stage 3 (N3): When people talk about deep sleep, they're referring to this stage. N3 sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep or delta-wave sleep, is the deepest sleep stage and is characterized by low-frequency, high-amplitude impulses known as delta waves. It's also the most difficult stage to get out of, with many people experiencing mental fogginess and disorientation when they wake up in the middle of it.
After passing through the stages of NREM sleep, your brain enters REM sleep, the final stage of sleep and the state in which you dream. Your eyes move rapidly behind your eyelids during REM sleep, and your breathing and heart rate accelerates. Because your arms and legs are immobilized, you are unable to act out your dreams. The REM stage normally begins 90 minutes after sleep begins, and the length of each REM stage grows longer during the night. The first REM stage, for example, may last only a few minutes, whereas the final REM stage may last an hour.
How to sleep deeper:
Scientists have been attempting to figure out how to improve deep sleep since the discovery of slow waves in the 1930s. While there are certain particular things you can do to spend longer in the N3 stage, most insomnia experts agree that practicing good sleep hygiene is the single most effective approach to improve the quantity of deep sleep.
With that in mind, here are a few sleep hygiene practices to help you spend more time in each sleep stage, including deep sleep:
- Make a sleep-inducing atmosphere. Set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature before going to bed (ideally, somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees F). Earplugs or ambient noises can be used to block out potential noise problems. Finally, make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. Wearing a weighted sleep mask before bed is a simple and effective technique to unwind before bed while also creating a completely dark sleeping environment.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other sleep-inducing substances. Even six hours before bedtime, eating 400 mg of caffeine — around four cups of brewed coffee — has been found to disrupt sleep quality. Alcohol usage has also been linked to sleep abnormalities, including a reduction in slow-wave sleep.
- Look for ways to de-stress. According to studies, stress reduces slow-wave sleep, thus doing all you can to minimize tension and concern before night will help you sleep better. Many people find weighted blankets to be beneficial when it comes to calming their anxiety. These therapeutic blankets employ gentle pressure to calm your body as you sleep under them, making it feel like you're being hugged all night. Are you afraid you'll get too hot wearing one? For a deeper sleep, try our premium quality cooling weighted blanket.
- Only go to bed when you're tired. When you go to bed feeling wide awake regularly, your brain begins to link your bed with wakefulness rather than sleep. Therefore, to have a deep sleep go to bed only when you're beginning to feel exhausted. If you're close to bedtime but still feel energized, consider winding down with a peaceful pastime (e.g., reading and meditation).
- Limit your naps. Too much napping can disrupt your circadian rhythms, making it harder to get a good night's sleep. Keep naps brief or skip them altogether to prevent disrupting your body's natural wake-sleep cycle.
- Maintain a regular bedtime regimen. Choose a bedtime that permits you to get seven to eight hours of sleep. Even on weekends, stick to your sleep pattern. This aids in the stabilization of your circadian rhythm, or "internal body clock," which operates on a 24-hour cycle.
- Before going to bed, stay away from screens. Electronic devices, such as your smartphone and tablet, generate blue light, which disrupts your body's melatonin production and keeps you awake. Download blue light blocking apps on your devices and limit their use in the hours leading up to bedtime to lessen these impacts.
The Importance of Getting a Good Night's Sleep
The advantages of getting enough deep sleep goes beyond feeling rested and alert when you wake up. The hippocampus, a complex brain area associated with memory storage and learning, transmits the knowledge it has gathered throughout the day to the cerebral cortex during deep sleep (the part of the brain responsible for thinking and understanding). This serves to strengthen the connections between neurons, making long-term memory retrieval easier.
However, improved memory and learning aren’t the only functions of deep sleep. The N3 stage of sleep is also responsible for:
- regenerating energy
- Cell regeneration is encouraged
- Immune system fortification
- Tissue regeneration and repair
- Bone and muscle development
Furthermore, some study suggests that deep sleep aids in the removal of harmful waste from the brain. Researchers propose that brain activity during deep sleep may help wash out proteins like amyloid-(A) and tau, which have been related to Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in PLOS.
With a weighted blanket, you can improve the quality of your sleep.
While all stages of sleep are vital for our health, deep sleep is perhaps the most important for genuinely restorative sleep. Slow-wave sleep is essential for a variety of processes, including muscle repair and growth, as well as learning and memory storage.
Try our best-selling Weighted Blanket to improve the quality and amount of your sleep. It's one of the simplest methods to go into a state of relaxation and get deeper sleep, plus it's backed by science and constructed with superior grade materials!