“Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night” is something you will have heard often. But did you know that the quality of sleep you get also matters? If you find yourself getting enough hours of sleep at night but wake up still feeling like your body isn’t fully rested, chances are you’re not getting enough deep sleep. This is the elusive sleep stage when brain waves are at their lowest frequency - muscles relax, breathing slows, and you are less prone to awakening.
The technical name for deep sleep is Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS) and is the sleep stage responsible for healing and repairing your body, replenishing cells and revitalising the immune system. While the amount of deep sleep needed varies with age, spending at least 20% of the night in deep sleep is a good goal to set.
So how do you achieve it? According to the National Sleep Foundation, here are some steps you can take to improve your time in deep sleep:
1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Decide on your bedtime and wake up time, and stick to it - even on the weekends! This will help regulate your body's clock, which in turn, helps you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. In under a week, you should fall into a regular sleep pattern, which increases your chances of getting some much needed deep sleep.
Your body will also naturally wake up at the same time, meaning less reliance on your alarm, while reducing that feeling of needing to drag yourself out of bed.
2. Eliminate Distractions
External distractions like noise and light before or during bedtime cause restlessness and reduce your chances of getting any proper sleep. Sleep in a dark room and make sure your phone is on silent and away from your bed to avoid being awoken by notifications. Using an eye mask and earplugs are a great way to block out light and sound throughout the night.
Don’t use your phone at all in the hour before bedtime - this reduces our exposure to blue light which indicates to the body it’s daytime, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep and enter the deeper stages of sleep.
3. Avoid alcohol or caffeine before bedtime
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, it could be due to alcohol or caffeine. While alcohol can make you fall asleep quicker, it messes with the quality of sleep because it means the body is less likely to move through the various stages of the sleep cycle.
Cut down your caffeine in the later stages of the day - it can help to set a cut off time of no caffeine in the 6 hours before you sleep; even if you no longer feel the affects of the caffeine, it can still have an impact on your circadian rhythm.
4. Get comfy
Being comfortable is important to getting a deep night sleep. There are a number of ways to get comfy at night, but sleeping on a comfortable mattress and pillows is always the first step. Look at how you can improve your room and make it more attractive and inviting for sleep, for example by removing allergens that might affect you.
Remember that the most important factor in increasing your deep sleep is to allow yourself adequate total sleep time. By going to bed too late / getting up too early, you're deep sleep and even REM sleep are automatically reduced. Deep sleep is critical to our health and so it is important to get as much of it as we can, especially in today’s ever busy and stressful world.
If you’re still having trouble getting enough sleep, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or find a sleep professional. They can prescribe certain supplements like CBD Oil, Ginkgo biloba, and Valerian root, which may aid in sleep, relaxation and stress reduction.