Humans always knew about the refreshing effect that comes with sleep. They knew a lot about dream sleep. Due to the more vivid nature of dream sleep, people gave more attention to it. Lots of mystery surrounds dream sleep. However, people tend to give less attention to deep sleep. Our knowledge of deep sleep remains limited.
We started to know more about sleep cycles or stages after the invention of EEG (electroencephalogram). In the 1930s, researchers began recording EEG of sleeping people. By 1960s researcher agreed to divide sleep into cycles, based on EEG findings. EEG studies revealed that there are two sleep cycles, non-REM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM sleep.
Sleep starts with drowsiness, and then it progresses to light sleep (stage 1 and 2). At this stage, a person is not difficult to awake. A person awakened in this stage becomes alert immediately. That’s the reason why it is called light sleep.
After this comes the stage 3 and 4, the so-called deep sleep. Recording of delta waves in EEG characterizes deep sleep.
Stage 3 and 4 are now not regarded as separate stages and are called N3. It is a stage of deep sleep. It is a stage of the delta wave when a person is tough to awake. Children in this stage are almost impossible to awaken. When awakened in this stage, people may remain disoriented for some time.
What You Can Do to Improve Deep Sleep
Vigorous exercise is good for health and sleep too. Especially physical training that makes you a bit tired. Physical exhaustion helps falling asleep faster. However, never exercise at the expense of sleep.
Practice mindfulness in the evening
It would help alleviate stress. Most of us have many tasks to do during the days. By the end of the day, worries get accumulated. Quite often a person cannot stop thinking about the problems (due to anxiety), thus cannot sleep well. Practicing mindfulness or meditating for about 10-15 minutes before going to bed would help clear the mind.
If you think that practicing mindfulness is not for you, consider using other relaxing techniques. Massage or aromatherapy before bedtime, or listening to relaxing music may be good options.
Avoid sleeping during the day
Sleeping too much during the day, may alter sleep pattern or circadian rhythm. Although napping for about 20 minutes would not disturb deep sleep. However, anything longer than that would disrupt.
Go to bed on time (a fixed time each day)
Having a sleep schedule is necessary to maintain a circadian rhythm, and get enough of deep sleep. Not going to bed at fixed time dysregulates your internal clock. Have a good restful sleep, and wake at the fixed time too.
Make your bedroom comfortable
Ensure that your bedroom is free from noise. Also, make sure that the bedroom is free from bright light. Avoid watching television in the bedroom, as you may frequently end up watching late night shows.
The bedroom should be slightly cooler than other rooms. The ideal temperature for good night’s sleep is 16-20 degree Celsius (60-67 degrees Fahrenheit). Also check the humidity of place, if needed use humidifier.
Your bedroom should be attractive, a place where you love to sleep. It must be allergens free.
Get enough of sunlight
It is good for sleep, helps prevent depression, good for bone health, it even has a positive impact on sexual life.
These days most of us are spending maximum time indoors. People may not see the bright sun for days together. Not because of weather, but people do not go out when the sun shines. However, avoiding sunlight may adversely impact circadian rhythm.
Lack of sunlight causes vitamin D deficiency. It may change the level of hormones. It may reduce levels of testosterone and other hormones. All this only make sleep worse and lighter. Morning sun is especially useful for both the skin and sleep.
Avoid alcohol before sleep
Although alcohol may help to sleep well, it can change the sleep pattern. It means less of beneficial deep sleep. Changes caused by alcohol in sleep pattern may last for days. Same is true for smoking, and caffeine.
See what you eat
It is a little bit individual. However, some people are intolerant to a specific type of foods. At least, avoid such food items in the evening. If you cannot tolerate spicy food, keep it for lunch. Similarly, avoid eating large meals in the evening.
Try eating large meals a few hours before bedtime. If you feel hungry before sleep, go for healthy snacks. Few food items like a glass of milk may improve deep sleep in many because of melatonin in it.
Remove items that cause anxiety
Your bedroom should be used only for sleeping and having sex. Avoid using it to watch television, or working on the laptop, or talking over the phone for hours.
Take time to transition to sleep mode
We have so many tasks to do in a day, many things to remember. So take your time to wind down. You need to develop a routine to clear your mind from unnecessary thoughts, to calm it down. For many people reading has a calming effect. You need to learn how to shift your brain to sleep mode.
Solve your snoring problem
Not necessarily, but often it is associated with sleep apnea. Almost one-third of adults live with sleep apnea. Yet, it remains one of the least diagnosed medical conditions.
When a person is suffering from sleep apnea, he or she may frequently awaken due to obstruction of respiratory tract. In many cases, a person may not know about it. However, these frequent arousals often happen during the deep sleep mode – disturbing sleep-wake cycle. It means that a person may be sleeping long enough, but still not feel rested.
Lack of deep sleep due to sleep apnea may increase the risk of depression, mood disorders, further worsening sleep pattern.
a Sleep specialist is well trained to diagnose sleep apnea. A specialist may use either a mobile apparatus that can be used at home. Or diagnosis may require sleeping in the lab. Treatment varies from medications, use of devices, to surgery.
Sex and sleep mix well together
Adequate sleep improves libido and sexual performance, and sex may also deepen sleep. Although, we do not know how much can sex enhance sleep, what we know for sure that both of these activities mix well with each other.
After sex men release prolactin, they feel exhausted, and immediately pass out into sleep. Sex can do wonder for improving deep sleep in men. Though for women things may differ.
Keep sleep record
Maintaining sleep diary may help you know more about your sleep problems. It may also provide invaluable information to a sleep specialist. Nowadays, one can also invest in a sleep tracker to automatically register information about sleep and physical activity.
If nothing else works, consult a specialist
In chronic conditions like sleep disorders doctor is merely a consultant. A doctor can tell you, impart knowledge. But at the end of the day, it is you who has to take steps. Nonetheless, if you fail on your own to manage your sleep, do not hesitate to consult a specialist.
Difference Between Deep Sleep and REM Sleep
REM sleep or dreamy sleep follows the deep sleep or N3. Usually, a person progresses to deep sleep after 20-30 minutes going to bed. During the night several cycles of deep sleep and dream sleep are repeated.
Deep sleep lasts longer during the first half of the night. Whereas, prolonged periods of REM sleep dominate the second half of the night. It is the reason why people dream more during the early morning.
Though we know well about the stages of sleep, we still know very little about the deep sleep.
Deep sleep is a state of almost complete disconnection from the environment. During this stage, the person does not move much. Heartbeat and respiration slow down. During this stage body temperature also falls a bit.
Will Sleeping Pills Help Improve Deep Sleep?
We strongly recommend avoiding using pills to improve sleep quality. These pills may help to sleep longer, but they do not necessarily improve the quality of sleep. Moreover, most of the medicines used to induce sleep do not treat underlying causes. In the long term, these pills may worsen sleep quality. Thus sleeping-pill is a dual-edged sword. Use them sparingly, and only in the absence of another choice.
Why Deep Sleep is Vital for Health
We know that growth and repair processes occur mostly during the deep sleep. Modern research shows the during the deep sleep body secretes growth hormone at highest levels. It is the reason why deep sleep is vital for athletes. In the early and mid-20th century, athletes even used drugs to improve deep sleep, thus stimulate performance.
Sleepwalking occurs during the stage of deep sleep. When a person arouses suddenly from deep sleep, higher brain centers fail to become alert. It means that a person can walk, perform complex physical tasks, though higher intelligence is still not functioning. A person is not fully aware of his or her actions.
Since deep sleep starts after 20-30 minutes of going to bed, it is the reason why power napping should not be more than 20 minutes. If a person sleeps more during the day, deep sleep will start. When a person is aroused from deep sleep, it disturbs sleep pattern. Moreover, the person remains lousy and disoriented for some time.
It is vital that a person should not be frequently disturbed during the deep sleep. Many people who get up during the stage of deep sleep continue to be in the phase called “sleep drunkenness.” During this state, a person should not drive or operate heavy machinery.
Unfortunately, deep sleep is also a very vulnerable state. Aging, frequent sleep disruptions due to apnea or disease, stress, medications, may all affect this stage adversely.
Although, we cannot turn the clock back and get young again. However, there are many ways for improving the quality of deep sleep. Reducing stress, practicing mindfulness, changing medications that disturb sleep pattern, all work.
How much of sleep should be deep sleep?
Healthy young adults must spend 20% of sleep time in a deep sleep state. That means about 1.5 to 1.8 hours each night. Usually, it is enough for the brain to be fully rested, and body restored.
Need or deep sleep is more for children and adolescents. Because during the deep sleep growth occurs. Similarly, the need for deep sleep decreases with aging.
How to know and monitor deep sleep at home?
Monitoring sleep is essential to know how well you sleep. One way is to go to sleep specialist or lab and get tested. Quite often a specialist would use a device called polysomnography, that would record both the sleep quality and other vitals. Polysomnography can be done either at home or in the lab.
However, for most of us, that may not be practicable. Fortunately, many modern wearable devices can help quantify and qualify sleep.
Wearable gadgets can tell about sleep quality and amount of deep sleep. Although, none of the commonly available wearables use EEG. However, they can estimate time of deep sleep by monitoring body activity, respiration rate, and heart rate. Research indicates that they are precise enough.
Sleep is the essential physiological phenomena, that occurs on a daily basis. Lack of sleep or quality sleep may cause more diseases than you can imagine. It is not only responsible for higher road accidents. It may weaken the heart, increase the risk of stroke. Chronic sleep deprivation may cause Alzheimer’s. It increases the risk of diabetes and even obesity.
The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.