Sleep is sometimes compared to a “shutdown” mode that allows the body to recharge. While that makes sense, it also greatly simplifies the very complex act of sleeping. When you sleep, your brain goes through a cycle of activity composed of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep. Each stage of the cycle plays a different role. And if you don’t get enough deep sleep, not only will you feel tired the next day, but also your physical and emotional health, daytime performance, and safety will be put at risk. Do you struggle to wake up each day? Do you find yourself dozing off at the office? Does your brain often feel foggy? Use the tips below to learn how to improve deep sleep.
The Stages of Sleep
First, let’s quickly review the stages of sleep that occur during the typical sleep cycle of a healthy adult (which lasts about 90 to 120 minutes).
- Stage One: In stage one (NREM), your body slows down. Your heartbeat, breathing, eye movements, and brain waves all decelerate. This is the transition period in which your body shifts from being awake to being asleep.
- Stage Two: In stage two (NREM), your body slows down even more, your body temperature drops, and your brain waves experience brief bursts of electrical activity. You’re still in a light phase of sleep at this point.
- Stage Three: In stage three (NREM), you’ve reached deep sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing are at their slowest, and your muscles are relaxed. Your brain waves are slowing down even further. This stage of sleep is incredibly important in order for you to feel refreshed and reenergized in the morning.
- REM Sleep: In the REM phase, your eyes begin to move rapidly back and forth behind your eyelids. Your brain activity, breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure increase. In fact, they almost reach waking levels. The majority of dreaming occurs during the REM phase.
Most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep each night. To ensure that you’re making the most of that shut-eye, learn how to improve deep sleep.
How to Improve Deep Sleep
- Set aside enough time for sleep sessions. Clearly, your body needs time to complete sleep cycles. If you want to reach stage three, in which deep sleep begins, you need to give your body time to do so. So if you’re someone who skimps on sleep sessions in favor of naps, you may want to reconsider.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. Your body will fall asleep more easily if you ease it into a routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day – even on the weekends!
- Exercise vigorously. Some evidence suggests that vigorous exercise can increase or strengthen deep sleep. Try adding some cardio (like running, biking, or swimming) to your morning or afternoon routine, as exercising at night triggers insomnia in some people.
- Set the stage for sleep. Your environment can have a profound impact on your ability to sleep well, which is why it’s often difficult for people to sleep in unfamiliar places. To ensure your bedroom is a welcoming place to fall asleep, dim the lights before bed, limit loud sounds if possible, and turn the AC a bit lower than usual.
- Invest in a quality mattress. A top-notch mattress, pillows, and bedding are essential for good sleep. Your mattress should be breathable, supportive, and reduce pressure points. If you’re a light sleeper, consider choosing a mattress that minimizes motion transfer so that your partner doesn’t wake you each time they toss and turn. Finally, remember to replace your mattress regularly. Typically a mattress should be replaced every six to eight years.
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