To the average person, “deep sleep” is a simple adjective to describe uninterrupted, good-quality sleep that you will not easily wake up. It’s a simple concept—one we don’t often associate with science.
However, scientifically speaking, “deep sleep” refers to the stage of sleep when your breathing and heartbeat are at their lowest. This is when your muscles fully relax and brain activity is the most minimal. True to popular belief, it is the stage of sleep that is the most difficult to wake up from.
Studies have concluded that deep sleep makes up 13 to 23 per cent of sleep for healthy adults. Since it is recommended for adults to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep, quick math tells us that deep sleep lasts for around 62 to 110 minutes.
If this recommended amount of deep sleep is met, you are allowing your body to consolidate memories, interpret emotions, process new information, release hormones, rejuvenate the immune system and balance out blood sugar levels.
If deep sleep is insufficient, you will experience sleep deprivation that is linked to a lower sex drive, compromised immune system, reduced levels of productivity and alertness. Lack of sleep can also cause some serious health problems like a higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
It would help if you had a sufficient sleep to function at your body’s optimal performance. We have listed six tips that you can apply to improve your sleep to a deeper and better one.
1. Set up the perfect bedtime routine
By training your body to sleep at regular frequencies during the same period every day, you are actually training your body clock. You are basically setting an internal alarm clock on your body. So that when it’s already 10 PM (your regular bedtime), you will automatically feel sleepy. And when it’s 6 AM (your regular awake time), you will wake up without the help of an alarm clock.
By having a consistent sleeping schedule, your circadian rhythm is also consistent with the bodily processes you need every day.
Stick with your sleeping schedule even on the weekends. Don’t just set it up but actually follow through with it.
2. Reduce light exposure
In this day and age, when smartphones and laptops have basically become the extension of ourselves, we often bring our screens wherever we go—even in our beds. The reason why you might not be getting enough sleep or why the quality of your sleep is so bad is most probably because of your unregulated use of screens.
Put the phones, TV and laptops away at least one hour before sleep. This way, you are cleansing your eyes of the blue light to prepare for a night of better sleep.
Blue light is bad for you. Especially if it’s an hour before bed. Your body is supposed to secrete melatonin—a substance that stimulates better and deeper sleep. Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin. Because there is not enough melatonin in your body, it makes it difficult to sleep no matter how hard you try. Too many distractions from technology can also disrupt the feng shui in your bedroom.
3. Make the bed a place for sleep
Don’t do work on your bed. Don’t bring your laptop to bed. Don’t bring your phone to bed. Don’t bring your studying to bed. That’s what desks and chairs are for! The bed is made for sleeping and the underlying psychology here is that if you only associate the bed with sleep, your body will automatically switch on to sleep mode whenever you are near or on your bed.
Glorify your bed as the place to sleep. That’s why it’s ideal to make your bed the best it can be to accommodate your sleeping preferences.
Sleepys Express recommends changing to a bouncier, thicker and softer mattress to facilitate easy sleeping. If your preferences lean to the springier and sturdier mattresses, find a mattress that suits your wants. Use cool and breathable cotton linens to allow better airflow when you’re sleeping in the summer without an air conditioner.
4. Avoid alcohol before bed
While people might think that alcohol can help you sleep as it can pass you out—the answer is no. Science says that alcohol does not promote deeper and better sleep. While it can make you fall asleep faster, the quality of sleep that you will get is not good for you.
Alcohol disrupts REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep cycle. REM is the final stage of sleep and is the stage when you are more likely to dream as your limbs are paralyzed to prevent acting on your dreams. As alcohol inhibits the REM cycle, you don’t get enough of what you should be getting.
5. Reduce stress
The correlation with your stress levels and sleep quality goes hand in hand. The more stressed you are, the less likely you’ll be able to sleep. The less sleep you get, the more stressed you become. It’s a never-ending cycle that is difficult to get out of.
However, by taking the time to unwind and relax your mind and body before sleep, you are actually allowing your body to sleep better and faster.
Meditate, relax, do yoga, engage in me times, do activities that you find relaxing, exercise—all these will help you to sleep better.
6. Avoid large meals and water before sleep
One of the reasons why people find it difficult to have deep sleep is that their sleep cycles are always interrupted. If your sleep cycles are always interrupted, the cycle is always on reset, making it difficult to reach Stage 4 or Deep Sleep each time.
The main culprit for interrupted sleep is peeing. The body has to wake up to expel the bodily fluids it needs to expel. That’s why it’s encouraged to avoid drinking any fluids at least two hours before sleep.
Similarly, a heavy meal should also be avoided before sleep hours. A heavy meal promotes metabolism or a fast heart rate—both of which are also sleeping interrupters.
While many factors prevent deep sleep, some factors promote a better-quality deep sleep to rejuvenate your mind and body.