“Deep sleep is the great restorer. It rejuvenates the body and mind, clears the clutter of consciousness, and renews our spirit for the day ahead.”
For our physical and mental wellbeing, sleep is crucial. Of the different stages of sleep, deep sleep is necessary. Deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep, allows the body to restore and rejuvenate. Understanding the benefits of deep sleep can motivate us to prioritize getting more high-quality shut-eye.
Deep sleep is the most vital stage of sleep. It occurs during the third and fourth stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
Deep sleep is characterized by:
- Slower breathing rate and heart rate
- Limited muscle activity and eye movement
- Increased blood flow to muscles and decreased body temperature
- Release of human growth hormone to facilitate growth and repair
- Consolidation of memories and learnings from the day
Deep sleep typically happens earlier in the night and lessens as morning approaches. As we age, the time spent in deep sleep also decreases. Ensuring sufficient deep sleep each night promotes health.
Deep sleep provides many therapeutic benefits for our physical well-being.
- The body repairs muscles and other tissues during deep sleep.
- Human growth hormone is released to stimulate growth, cell reproduction, and tissue repair.
- Deep sleep may play a role in bone mineral density.
- Deep sleep is linked to improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation.
- Growth hormone secretion helps prevent insulin resistance.
- Deep sleep strengthens the activity of the body’s immune cells.
- Not getting enough deep sleep can reduce immune system function.
When exposed to a virus, people who don’t get enough deep sleep
are more likely to become ill.
- Insufficient deep sleep alters hormones that regulate hunger and appetite.
- People who don’t get enough deep sleep tend to weigh more than those who do.
- Deep sleep helps maintain healthy body weight.
In addition to physical health, deep sleep provides essential cognitive and mental health benefits.
- Deep sleep facilitates memory consolidation and long-term storage.
- During deep sleep, memories and learned skills from the day are transferred to long-term memory.
- Deep sleep clears out adenosine, a chemical that induces drowsiness.
- You’re less sleepy and more focused after a restorative deep sleep.
- Deep sleep helps you be more productive during the day.
- Deep sleep allows the brain to rebalance neurotransmitter levels, including serotonin.
- Insufficient deep sleep can negatively impact mood the following day.
- Getting deep sleep helps regulate emotions and prevent anxiety and irritability.
- Deep sleep strengthens connections between brain cells and clears out toxins.
- After a deep sleep, you can think more clearly and make better decisions.
- Waste products linked to Alzheimer’s disease are cleared from the brain during deep sleep.
- Older adults with less deep sleep are more likely to develop dementia.
- Deep sleep may help delay cognitive decline.
Here are some evidence-based tips to help you get more deep, restorative sleep:
- Maintain regular sleep schedule – Going to bed, waking up consistently regulates your circadian rhythm, so you spend more time in deep sleep.
- Limit light exposure at night – Blue light from phones and screens suppresses melatonin, making it harder to fall into deep sleep. Avoid screens for 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Create an optimal sleep environment – Factors like cool temperature, complete darkness, and comfort help signal to your body it’s time for deep sleep.
- Avoid stimulants in the afternoon/evening – Caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants interfere with your ability to reach the deeper stages of sleep.
- Wind down before bedtime – Activities like light yoga, reading, and meditation help transition your mind and body into a state conducive to deep sleep.
- Consider supplements – Magnesium, glycine, and zinc support deep sleep.
Deep sleep provides immense benefits for both physical and mental health. Prioritizing deep, quality sleep helps us wake up feeling recharged and optimized for the day. Healthy sleep habits and lifestyle tweaks can promote more time spent in the vital stages of deep sleep each night.
Experts recommend getting at least 90 minutes of deep sleep per night for optimal health. However, deep sleep needs vary by age and individual. Focus on getting quality sleep and waking up feeling refreshed.
Excessive daytime sleepiness, constant fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, susceptibility to illness, and frequent nighttime awakenings can indicate insufficient deep sleep.
It’s rare to get excessive amounts of deep sleep. However, certain medical conditions like sleep apnea can cause abnormally high amounts of deep sleep. Most people focus on getting adequate deep sleep.
Insufficient deep sleep is associated with obesity, diabetes, and premature aging. Making deep sleep a priority may help reduce these risks.
Wearable sleep trackers can estimate time spent in deep sleep based on heart rate and movement indicators. Feeling well-rested upon waking is also a good sign you got sufficient deep sleep.