Head over to any self-care guide, and you’ll see a few main factors: food, exercise, and sleep. Think of these as the basis for your hierarchy of self-care needs. When it comes to these basics, there are some ground rules that we all agree on: eat fewer processed foods and drink plenty of water, and exercise can include anything that gets you moving. But what about sleep? What about naps at your desk, on the bus, or on the couch as you fall asleep while watching Netflix. Do those help? Sleep deprivation can impact both psychological and physical health, and the most effective way to counter it is to get appropriate undisturbed sleep at night. So to answer your question, not really. While short naps can give a little boost of energy, they’re no substitute for essential deep sleep.
What is Deep Sleep?
Your body experiences different stages of sleep each night. Deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, is stage 3 of your sleep cycle that consists of non-rapid eye movement sleep. This type of sleep is important for adults to feel refreshed once they open their eyes in the morning. In fact, 13 to 23 percent of the average adult’s sleep should be a deep sleep. Since adults require about 7 to 8 hours of sleep, about 62 to 110 minutes of that period should be a deep sleep.
Stages of Sleep
While sleeping, your body experiences one rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage and three non-rapid eye movements (NREM) sleep stages. Usually, your body takes 90 to 120 minutes to go through these stages. After that, the cycle starts again.
Depending on how long you sleep, you will experience the entire sleep cycle 4 to 6 times. In the first few hours of sleep, you spend more time in NERM sleep. As time passes, your body spends more time in REM sleep. Let’s discuss each stage to understand how the sleep cycle works.
This stage is when your body starts transitioning from being fully awake to asleep. It’s easier to wake up at this stage compared to others. Your body stays at this stage for a short time and quickly moves to the next stage. Also, sensory stimulation and brain activity start dropping to help you sleep.
At this point, you’re still in light sleep, and your heart rate and breathing will slow down. The tension in your muscles will decrease, and your body temperature will drop. Typically, this stage lasts longer than others. In fact, you will spend half of your total sleep at stage 2.
This is when you start entering deep sleep. In the 3rd stage, your breathing rate and heart rate are much lower, helping your entire body relax. Your eyes and muscles will relax as the tension in them reduces while brain waves slow down. At this stage, it’s harder to wake up, and it’s when most symptoms of sleep disorders occur, such as sleepwalking.
REM Sleep or Stage 4
This is the last stage of the sleep cycle. REM sleep occurs around 90 minutes after you fall asleep. When your body first enters the REM stage, it will last 10 minutes at first. This time will increase to 15 minutes or more as your body goes through more and more sleep cycles. This is when you start dreaming, and your eyes move back and forth under the eyelids. At stage 4, you are closer to wakefulness, as your brain begins to operate the same way as when you are fully awake.
Benefits of Deep Sleep
Taking the required 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day is important to wake up feeling energized and not more tired than when you went to bed. There are several benefits of deep sleep. For starters, it increases glucose metabolism in the brain. Moreover, it supports long-term and short-term memory. This connects to an additional benefit, as it improves your learning abilities.
Slow-wave sleep is also the stage when the pituitary glands produce a significant amount of crucial hormones, such as growth hormones. This helps with the development and growth of the body.
Here are some other advantages of getting enough deep sleep.
- boost blood supply to muscles
- helps to restore energy
- regeneration of cell
- repair of bones and tissues
- promotes growth
- strengthen immune system
Wondering what health problems you might have to face if you don’t get enough deep sleep for a long time? Slow-wave sleep helps you brain process the information it collects throughout the day. If you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, your brain may have trouble saving this information in your long-term memory. Not to mention, not getting enough deep sleep also increases your risk of developing problems like:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- heart disease
How Can You Get More Deep Sleep?
The easiest and simplest thing you can do is to get enough time to sleep. Try to sleep at least 7 hours at night to get high-quality sleep. Some more methods that you can practice are:
Can’t go to sleep? This is a major reason many people don’t get enough sleep at night, even if they go to bed on time. Studies show that you can improve and increase the quality of deep sleep by engaging in the psychical activity. So, you can hit the gym, try some yoga or meditation, or go for a walk every day to use up your extra energy.
If you want to sleep better, you should eat better. Eating more sugars and fats and less fiber disturbs your sleeping schedule. Hence, start eating foods that are high in protein and fiber and low in fat.
Considering having one glass before you go to bed? Bad idea. Although alcohol helps you fall asleep, it impacts the quality of your sleep. To get better deep sleep, try cutting down on alcohol intake in the hours before you go to bed.
Coffee is a stimulant and helps you stay awake, so it’s a no-brainer that you should avoid before going to bed. However, not many people know when exactly to stop their caffeine intake for the day. In case you didn’t know, you should avoid taking coffee seven hours before you go to sleep.
If you feel tired and cranky when you wake up in the morning, it’s probably because you didn’t get quality sleep at night. To avoid this, practice some of the above-mentioned techniques to ensure better deep sleep. A stable sleep cycle helps your body gain strength, improves your memory, and prevents the development of heart problems.