How to get more deep sleep: 6 easy tips
Sweet dreams? We share 6 tips on how to get more deep sleep for long-term brain care.
Sleep is one of the greatest drivers of our health, performance, and wellbeing. But when we don’t get enough high-quality sleep, the problems can start to mount. In this article, you’ll learn how to get more deep sleep — and the research behind it.
Are we getting enough sleep?
When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep? If the answer is last night, well, good for you.
For many of us though, sleep is a stressful experience. About 1 in 3 people in the UK suffer from poor-quality or lack of sleep.
What causes a lack of deep sleep?
Signs that you might not be getting high-quality sleep include:
Regularly experiencing things that disturb your sleep—this might include panic attacks, nightmares, or flashbacks.
Sleep disorders, like insomnia.
Persistent feelings of tiredness or low energy.
Some stimulants or substances.
Insomnia is one aspect of poor sleep that I’m particularly familiar with. So, how much sleep should we aim for?
How many minutes of deep sleep should you get?
As a general rule, the NHS recommends roughly eight hours of high-quality sleep a night. The National Library of Medicine states that betwen 13 and 23 per cent of that time should be in deep sleep — equalling between 62 and 110 minutes of deep sleep per night.
If we get less than that, we’ll start to feel the effects. These range from tiredness and irritability, to brain fog, low mood, and serious medical problems like obesity and high blood pressure.
How do I fix low deep sleep?
It is not about how long you sleep, but the quality of sleep. The more deep sleep you get, the more refreshed you’ll feel. A study published by Science Advances indicates that the slow and steady brain activity associated with deep non-REM are optimal for the function of the glymphatic system (the brain’s unique process of getting rid of waste).
Six groups of anaesthetised mice were studied in this research. While they were sleeping, the researchers tracked brain electrical activity, cardiovascular activity, and the flow of CSF through the brain. The mice that had a sleep pattern closely resembling deep non-REM sleep were found to have the most active glymphatic systems.
In other words, deep sleep gives your brain a chance to cleanse. This is why, without enough deep sleep, you can sleep for 9 hours but still feel groggy.
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Benefits of deep sleep
This discovery (that deep sleep promotes the activity of the glymphatic system) matches up with the clinical observations that show an association between sleep deprivation and a heightened risk for Alzheimer’s.
Not only that, deep sleep benefits your immune system, promotes growth and repair of tissues and bones, and even increases your sex drive.
But how to improve deep sleep? Our top tips can help.
How to increase deep sleep
I’ve read through many sleep tips in my quest to get more deep sleep — these are the ones that worked. If you’re looking for how to improve deep sleep, give them a try.
Power down. Reduce bright lights and screen time at least an hour before bed. Removing this stimulation helps prime your body for its sleep cycle.
Be consistent. Aim for the same bedtime, even on weekends. (Although this doesn't mean you should fit your weekday patterns to match your Friday night 2am choice.)
Be cool. The temperature of your bedroom matters. According to #science (and my Oura ring), the right median temperature for a body to rest at night is right around 19.5C.
No big meals or workouts. Looking to get more deep sleep? Don’t eat big meals or workout close to bedtime. This will stop your digestive systems and cortisol levels interrupting your sleep.
De-stress. Do what relaxes you: meditation, stretching, or lifestyle shifts can all help to remove stress and improve your deep sleep. This guide on meditation is a great place to start.
Vitamins. A deficiency in certain vitamins have shown that it can be harder for your body to produce the sleep hormone melatonin—find out which ones you could be lacking.
If you find that one or more of these tips work for you, start to base a solid bedtime routine around them.
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How can I improve my deep sleep?
It’s all about relaxing, avoiding distractions, and letting your brain unwind. Learn the tips that work for you, avoid stimulants like caffeine too late in the day, and repeat your bedtime routine daily.
Still sleepy? Sleep scientist Sophie Bostock shares her incredible R.E.S.T method here.