Sleep Like a Log: How To Get More Deep Sleep
You’ve heard about the importance of deep sleep, but you aren’t exactly certain what it is or how to get it. Let’s take a closer look at this sleep stage and what you can do to boost your levels of it.
Deep sleep is the stage of sleep where you have the slowest brain waves. That’s why you might sometimes hear people refer to it as slow-wave sleep (SWS).
Without getting too much into the science aspect -- although that might help you nod off -- SWS is one of the three non-REM types of sleep. To help simplify the matter, scientists now refer to the stages as N1, N2, and N3.
The last stage is REM sleep, also known as rapid eye movement sleep. If you like to dream, that’s the stage you’ll get excited about because that’s when most of them happen.
What Happens in the Various Stages of Sleep?
You know when you have a bad break-up, you’re going to go through different stages as you process what just happened. Good sleep is a lot like that. It may seem straightforward, but it’s actually incredibly complex. There are phases you have to go through.
There are differences in what is happening to your body and brain during all the sleep cycles. Let’s look at what is going on with you when you experience each of the four stages of sleep.
This is the first stage as you fall asleep, and it is a brief period of sleep. It’s believed to last for about 10 minutes for most people.
It’s easy for you to wake up from this stage if you hear a noise or something disturbs you. In fact, if you awaken at this point you might not even realize you were asleep at all.
Your breathing will begin to slow down. Your blood pressure will begin to decrease. Muscles start to relax and your body temperature begins to drop.
Your brain waves and eye movements begin to slow down.
The next stage you’ll reach is N2. The sleeping time of this stage usually lasts anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes.
In this phase, your body relaxes more than it did during the N1 stage. Your brain waves slow down even more, as does your heart rate. Your eye movement quits too.
As the third stage, N3 is the one you’ll hear referred to as slow wave sleep. This is the good stuff -- it’s the type of deep sleep that will leave you feeling wide awake and ready to tackle the world after you get it.
That’s because the Delta wave, which is a slow brain wave frequency, happens in this stage. These types of brain waves are important if you want to feel well rested.
But here’s the problem -- the amount of deep sleep you get decreases as you get older, sometimes leading to feelings of sleep deprivation. If you aren’t achieving this stage, you’ll still feel tired even after hours of sleep.
This is an important stage because it is when your immune system gets stronger and your tissues and bones repair and grow.
The N3 stage usually lasts anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. You’re sleeping like a rock during N3 and you might not hear anything going on around you, making it harder to wake you up. Apparently, my husband was in the N3 stage every time my kids’ baby monitors went off when they were babies because he claimed he never heard it.
If someone does manage to wake you up at this point, you’ll feel really out of it. It can take you a while to shake off that feeling of grogginess.
Here is what’s happening to your body while you’re in N3. That heart rate and your breathing rate get as slow as they will in any sleep stage. Your blood pressure continues to drop and you still won’t have any eye movement.
This is the stage we get to thank for the phenomenon known as night terrors. If your child has ever sat straight up in their bed and started screaming, you’ll know what I mean. It’s terrifying, and you immediately think Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees must all be in your child’s room to cause that amount of screaming.
This stage is also when you’ll hear someone talking nonsense in their sleep and even sleepwalking at times.
4. REM Sleep
Before you go into REM sleep, you’ll go through the other three sleep phases first. By the time you hit REM, you’ll have been asleep for about an hour and a half.
REM is easily distinguished because of the rapid eye movement people have while in it. You’ll see their eyes darting to each side underneath their eyelids.
Your temperature will be lower in REM than in any other phase. Your blood pressure and heart rate climb.
Common Sleep Problems and Their Effects
Now that you understand more about what happens when you close your eyes at night, let’s look at sleep disorders that interfere with these stages.
- Sleep apnea: About 20 million Americans deal with this condition. With this problem, your breathing stops momentarily because your upper respiratory system is blocked by soft tissue in your throat. You may wake up gasping for air, which can interrupt your rest and leave you feeling exhausted the next day.
- Insomnia: A lot of people suffer from this one. You may have issues falling asleep at night or staying asleep once you get there. Insomnia leads to all kinds of symptoms, like problems with concentration, depression, not being able to do your best at work or school, having no energy, mood issues, and feeling sleepy all day.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: This disorder impacts both children and adults. If you’ve ever had a strong desire to move your legs while sleeping, restless leg syndrome is likely the reason. You’ll feel a burning, pins and needles, or aching sensation that seems to only be relieved by moving your legs. Getting enough quality rest can be hard with this disorder and may lead to problems with memory, being tired throughout the day, and sadness and depression.
- Narcolepsy: This is rarer, but it also causes daytime sleepiness, trouble sleeping at night, and even hallucinations. With narcolepsy, your brain can’t regulate staying awake and sleeping like other people’s brains can. This sleep/wake cycle, also known as your circadian rhythm, is affected by narcolepsy.
Ways To Increase Deep Sleep
Finding a way to increase deep sleep and how to improve REM sleep can give you a better overall quality of life. It’s hard to be productive, happy, and energetic when all you want to do during the day is curl up in your bed.
So how can you go about improving sleep so you’re at your best?
- Wear yourself out: Exercise is a great way to get better rest. It can be hard to encourage yourself to do it if you feel exhausted though. Start with at least a few minutes on the first day and keep working your way up to more.
- Heat up: Warming up before you nod off may increase your amount of deep sleep. You can do that by taking a dip in a hot tub or warm bath. You could also stack on more blankets or wear more layers to bed.
- Follow a schedule: Erratic sleeping schedules can make it harder to achieve the rest you need. So turn out the lights at a normal time instead of binge watching Netflix. Your body will thank you.
- Unwind: Put down the electronics an hour before bedtime. The bright lights on the screens and the information you’re taking in could be energizing you instead of relaxing you.
- Get a weighted blanket: Weighted blankets can give you extra warmth and a reassuring sense of touch that may help with insomnia. Plus, they can help with restless leg syndrome by putting pressure on those legs. That will help you avoid that urge to move them as often.
- Cut back on the liquids an hour before bed: Getting up to go to the bathroom multiple times a night will leave you feeling unrested.
Don’t Lose Any Sleep Over It
Bet you never knew sleep was so complicated, huh? For such a natural process, there sure is a lot to it.
Now that you know about the importance of deep rest and the common disorders that may be tiring you out, you can do something about it. With the tips we shared above, you should have better rest in no time.
I expect you’ll be conquering the world with your increased energy levels in no time flat.
Sleep calculator courtesy of SleepingOcean.