Deep sleep is just as the name implies, going much deeper into the sleep space, and this is the point where the body begins to perform restorative functions as it's in a relaxed state. This, in turn, makes getting that deep sleep an integral part of the sleeping process.

Here, you would find out all there is to know about deep sleep and how much of it is needed to fuel the body. Let's go!

How much deep sleep do you need

What is a Deep Sleep?

Imagine your body as a bustling city, with different neighborhoods representing various stages of sleep. In this analogy, deep sleep is like the quiet, peaceful suburb where your body goes to rest and recharge for the next day.

Deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep, is a stage of sleep that's all about quality over quantity. It's the stage where your body dives deep into relaxation, with your brain producing slow, synchronized waves that wash over you like gentle ocean currents.

During this time, your heartbeat slows down, your muscles relax completely, and your breathing becomes steady and rhythmic.

But deep sleep isn't just about physical relaxation; it's also when your body does some serious maintenance work. This is when the tissues are repaired, muscles are rebuilt, and growth hormones are released to help you recover from the day's activities. And that’s not all—your brain also sorts through all the memories and experiences you’ve accumulated throughout the day.

It's like your brain is organizing files and putting them away in neat little folders, making sure you remember the important stuff and discard the rest.

But here's the kicker: deep sleep isn't just about physical and mental maintenance—it's also crucial for your overall health and well-being.

Studies have shown that getting enough deep sleep is linked to better immune function, improved mood, sharper cognitive function, and even a reduced risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

deep sleep

Stages of Sleep?

Just to ease off any confusion that might result from the term deep sleep, let's have a look at the stages of sleep and know just where deep sleep comes in and how crucial it is:

In Stage 1, also known as NREM1, the body transitions from wakefulness to sleep. This is a light sleep stage that typically lasts for a few minutes.

During this time, individuals may experience drifting in and out of consciousness, muscle relaxation, and slowed eye movements. While brain activity begins to slow down, individuals can still be easily awakened.

the different stages of sleep

Moving into Stage 2, or NREM2, individuals enter a deeper level of sleep characterized by further relaxation and slowing of brain waves. This stage constitutes a significant portion of total sleep time and plays a role in memory consolidation and cognitive processing.

Stage 3, also referred to as NREM3 or deep sleep, is the most restorative stage of sleep. It is characterized by the presence of slow, synchronized brain waves known as delta waves. During deep sleep, muscles relax completely, and the body enters a state of profound rest and recovery. This stage is essential for physical restoration, growth, repair, immune function, and hormone regulation.

Finally, REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, is a unique stage characterized by rapid eye movements, vivid dreams, and heightened brain activity.

Importance of Deep Sleep?

We've been going on and on about deep sleep. Now, let's examine some of it's key importance.

1.Physical restoration

During deep sleep, the body goes through an amazing process of repair and rejuvenation. Growth hormone is released, which helps tissues grow and repair, muscles develop, and overall physical restoration occurs.

Deep sleep is when the body fixes muscles, builds bone mass, and boosts the immune system.

sleeping can help with physical restoration

2. Cognitive function

During deep sleep, your brain works hard to boost cognitive function. It helps with memory consolidation, learning, and problem-solving.

Basically, deep sleep helps your brain process and store information from the day, making it easier to remember and improve overall cognitive performance.

3. Emotional regulation

Getting enough deep sleep is crucial for managing emotions and feeling mentally well. When we don't get sufficient deep sleep, we might feel more irritable, have mood swings, and react strongly to emotions.

Deep sleep helps control stress hormones like cortisol and builds emotional strength, making it easier to handle life's ups and downs.

a good sleep can help you feel better

4. Hormonal balance

Deep sleep is closely tied to keeping your hormones and metabolism in check. Hormones like cortisol, which deals with stress, and leptin and ghrelin, which manage appetite and metabolism, are affected by how well and how long you sleep, especially during deep sleep. If deep sleep gets interrupted, it can mess up your hormone balance, possibly causing weight gain, messing with your metabolism, and raising the risk of health problems down the road.

5. Immune function

There's growing proof that deep sleep is super important for keeping your immune system strong and fighting off sickness. When you're in deep sleep, your body makes cytokines, special proteins that help control inflammation and fight infections.

Making sure you get enough deep sleep helps your body fight off germs and bounce back from being sick.

be healthier with good sleep

Factors that influences Deep Sleep

There are certain habits that could interfere with deep sleep and there are some that could promote deep sleep, here are a couple of them:

Sleep environment

Having a good sleep environment is essential for getting deep sleep. Things like how noisy it is, how warm or cool it is, how bright it is, and how comfy your bed is can all affect how well you sleep.

Making sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet can help you sleep better. Also, having nice bedding and silk pillowcases can make your bed feel cozier and help you relax for a better sleep.

a good sleep environment can help with sleep

Sleep hygiene

Following good sleep habits can help you sleep better. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, avoiding caffeine and exciting stuff before bed, and doing calming activities to relax before sleeping. These habits tell your body it's time to rest.

Stress and anxiety

Feeling stressed or anxious can mess up your deep sleep. When you're stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that can interfere with your sleep.

But doing things like meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises can help lower stress and make it easier to sleep deeply.

Sleep disorders

Having sleep problems like sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs, or narcolepsy can stop you from getting deep sleep.

These issues alters your sleep pattern and stop you from getting the restorative sleep you need. It's important to get treatment for these problems to improve your deep sleep.

Lifestyle factors

Some things you do in your everyday life can affect how well you sleep. Exercising regularly can help you sleep better, but doing intense exercise right before bed might make it harder to sleep.

Also, eating heavy meals or drinking alcohol before bed can mess up your sleep and stop you from getting deep sleep.

avoid alcohol for a better sleep

Medications and substances

Some medications and substances can interfere with your deep sleep. This includes prescription drugs, stuff you can buy without a prescription, and things like alcohol and nicotine.

They can mess up your sleep pattern and make it hard to get good deep sleep. It's important to talk to your doctor about any medication side effects that might affect your sleep.

some medications can stop you getting a good sleep

Mental health

Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD can disrupt deep sleep. People with these conditions often struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get good restorative sleep.

But if you work on your mental health with therapy, medication, and changes in your lifestyle, you can improve your sleep quality and get deeper sleep.

Recommended Amounts of Deep Sleep:

Adults (18-64 years old)

For adults in this age group, it's suggested to try to get about 15-30% of your total sleep time in deep sleep. Since most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night, that means aiming for roughly 1.5-2 hours of deep sleep each night. But everyone's different, so some people might need more or less deep sleep to feel refreshed.

Older Adults (65 years and older)

As people get older, they usually get less deep sleep each night. Older adults might also have changes in their sleep pattern, like less slow-wave sleep and shorter overall sleep time.

Even though it's still important for older adults to aim for enough deep sleep, they often don't get as much as younger adults.

But by focusing on good sleep habits and dealing with any sleep problems that come with age, older adults can improve the quality of their deep sleep and their overall sleep health.

February 21, 2024 — Michelle Fletcher Smith