Getting a night of deep sleep is certainly not getting any easier. While there have always been barriers to sleep, the arrival of technology—in the form of smartphones and tablets, specifically—has only presented new challenges for recharging overnight. While we often hear that the average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, quality matters just as much as quantity. More and more people, especially as they age, are forced to make lifestyle changes to get more deep sleep.
As advocates of a deeper night’s sleep, today we’ll take a look at the different stages of sleep, define exactly what deep sleep is (and its benefits), and provide a few deep sleep hacks.
How Is Deep Sleep Defined?
While the stages of sleep can get very technical, we group them into three easy-to-understand buckets:
Bedtime: This is when the “sleep switch” occurs, which releases melatonin. Once you settle in, your heart rate decreases, your muscles relax, and your brain waves abate, preparing you for sleep.
Deep Sleep: The first half of the night is your deep sleep window. During this period, everything drops further: your heart rate, your breathing, your blood pressure, your muscle activity, and your body temperature (and you better believe we’ll come back to that). Deep sleep is most dense in the first half of the night, which happens right before our body drops to its lowest point temperature-wise. This stage is also referred to as “delta sleep” in reference to delta brain waves, which are slower and indicate you’ve reached a deeply meditative and dream-free sleep.
Warm-Up: During the last half of the night, you’re coming out of the valley of core body temperature. Deep sleep is effectively over, and you’re warming up.
How Does Deep Sleep Affect My Overall Health?
Now that you understand more about deep sleep—that respiration, heartbeat, and eye movements decrease, muscles fall at ease, and those brain waves start to transition you from being awake to being asleep as your core temperature drops—you can probably guess how restorative it can be. Some people struggle to wake up at all during this stage, but if you’ve been roused from a deep sleep before—by a telephone, a barking pet, or an alarm—you probably felt groggy and confused due to the disruption.
There’s a lot going on during the deep sleep stage, and all of it is beneficial. If you’ve ever had a rough night of tossing and turning, or experienced insomnia, you know it affects cognitive performance, especially for your short- and long-term memory, as well as your brain’s ability to absorb new information. Since glucose metabolism escalates during deep sleep, it strengthens your memory and overall learning capability.
Other benefits of deep sleep include:
- Cell regeneration
- Increased blood flow to muscles
- A stronger immune system
- Energy renewal
- Development, growth, and repair of tissues and bones
Temperature-Related Hacks for Getting More Deep SleepNow that you know the benefits of deep sleep, let’s discuss some ways to ensure you’re getting enough of it. Since that temperature drop is such a crucial aspect of the deep sleep stage, finding ways to activate that “sleep switch” can help increase your levels of deep sleep.
Obviously, using products like our chiliPad or OOLER sleep systems can help you kickstart that temperature drop once you’re already under the covers. Causing a significant change in your body temperature—even if it’s only .1 degrees—goes a long way toward ensuring you’re sleeping deeper for longer. The ”sleep switch” occurs four hours before the coldest valley of body temperature, when you sleep drive is at its highest. If you use one of our products to warm you up, ideally you’d want to drop it after about 20 minutes to prime yourself to get better deep sleep.
If you don’t own any sleep tech, there are other ways to create the temperature drop (though they won’t be as precise). Before bed you can take a hot shower and then cool off, or you can even go for a walk in the evening. Ultimately, most homes are set at constant temperatures, so you have to take some action to create that temperature drop. The bottom line? If you’re waking up during the night it’s probably because you’re too hot.
Find Your Own Deep Sleep Sweet SpotThough sleep needs vary from individual to individual, they are based on ingrained habits and routine.listen to your body; if you are tired go to sleep, but if you aren’t sleeping for more than 20 minutes don’t stay in bed. Since deep sleep happens early, you can always try going to bed a little earlier, in half-hour increments, to find the right timing.After that, if you’re still struggling to sleep, seeing a sleep specialist might help you uncover the root of the problem. Then you can take action that will have you catching deeper Zs in no time. Because if you’ve learned anything from this post, it should be this: getting more deep sleep is important for your long-term health, so you should be taking every measure possible to ensure you’re getting it on a consistent basis.
Have additional tips for getting more deep sleep? Or a deep sleep success story about one of our products? We’d love to hear them.