Almost everyone can get more sleep. Deep sleep is even more important. In fact, a lack of deep sleep can affect your health.
What is deep sleep? How do you know if this is enough for you? If not?
This article looks at what deep sleep is and what its health benefits are. It also looks at the causes and solutions for reducing your levels of deep sleep and helps you decide if you are getting enough sleep.
What is deep sleep?
Deep sleep is also called slow wave sleep. It gets its name from the slow brain waves called delta waves that the brain produces during this time.
Slow wave sleep is the deepest stage of sleep. It is also called stage 3 NREM sleep. This stage occurs most often in the first third of the night. It is very difficult to wake someone up from a deep sleep.
The stages of sleep were revised in 2007.
Until recently, the dream was divided into five stages. Deep sleep was called stage 4. In 2007, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) changed this. Today's dream is divided into four stages:
- NREM Stage 1
- NREM Stage 2
- NREM Stage 3
- REM sleep
How much deep sleep do you need?
People of different ages spend different amounts of time in deep sleep. Children spend more time in deep sleep than adults. In general, school-age children and adolescents need to spend 20 to 25% of their sleep time in deep sleep. Adults should spend about 16-20% of their sleep in deep sleep.
Studies have shown that people spend less time in deep sleep as they age. Men, however, tend to experience a more pronounced decrease in the amount of deep sleep with age than women.
The health benefits of deep sleep
During deep sleep, the body releases growth hormone. It is a chemical that helps form and repair tissue.
Growth hormone is vital for normal growth during childhood, but it also plays an important role in adults. Helps build muscle after exercise and limits the effects of normal wear and tear on the body. Increased blood flow to the muscles during deep sleep helps these processes.
Deep sleep can also play a role in removing waste products from the brain, such as a protein called beta amyloid, which is found in abnormal amounts in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Removing this waste helps your brain process and store memories.
Deep sleep also helps your immune system work better and returns energy to your cells.
Risks associated with a lack of deep sleep
It is clear that not getting enough sleep is bad for your health. When you don't get enough sleep, the quality of your sleep generally deteriorates. The effects on your body and brain may include:
Lack of deep sleep can make chronic pain worse. This can manifest itself in different ways. It can even lead to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia , which is characterized by pain, depression, and fatigue. When you sleep more soundly, you may feel less pain.
Children with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, will sleep less. Decreased deep sleep inhibits the release of growth hormone. This can lead to slower growth than normal. Fortunately, children can catch up with growth after receiving treatment for their sleep disorder.
Beta-amyloid plaques accumulate in the brain tissue of Alzheimer's patients. Lack of deep sleep can interfere with the purification of these proteins. This can accelerate the progression of the disease.
Immune function and chronic disease
Lack of deep sleep can also damage your immune system. You can get more common illnesses, such as colds or the flu. Lack of deep sleep can also increase your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer.
Deep sleep is essential for good health. During deep sleep, your body regenerates and removes waste from your brain. When you don't get enough sleep, your immune system also stops working. You may also be at increased risk for Alzheimer's and chronic diseases like cancer.
Are you getting enough sleep?
You can usually tell when you are not getting enough sleep. You may have frequent awakenings or too many transitions from deep sleep to light sleep. You can also be wide awake. When you wake up in the morning, you may still feel tired. During the day, you may feel sleepy or tired.
Unfortunately, there is no easy and accurate way to measure the stages of sleep. This makes it difficult to know exactly how much deep sleep you sleep each night.
The gold standard for diagnosing sleep problems is the polysomnogram . This is a formal study from a sleep center that measures:
- Electrical activity in the brain (including stages of sleep) measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG) .
- Muscle activity
- Eye movements
- Respiratory patterns
- Oxygen levels
- Heart rate, which is measured by an electrocardiogram (EKG or EKG).
- Leg movements
This test has some limitations. It interferes with sleep and is not suitable for long-term observation. This is also expensive and not available to everyone. The test is very good at measuring deep sleep. However, it cannot provide a detailed picture of your long-term quality of sleep.
Portable devices can help fill the gap left after trying a sleep center. Fitness trackers and similar devices are convenient and can be used for a long time. These devices use several different measures to track your sleep, including:
- Heart rate
- Oxygen levels (some devices)
- EEG (some devices)
Portable devices can give you an overview of your sleeping patterns. Unfortunately, these measurements do not give you an accurate picture of your deep sleep.
Over time, these devices can become more accurate and more helpful in understanding long-term sleep.
If you don't get enough sleep, you will likely wake up feeling tired and sleepy during the day.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to gauge how much you sleep. Having a polysomnogram in the sleep center may be helpful. Wearable devices can also give you a good overview of your sleep. However, none of these things will give you a complete picture of your dream.
What Causes Worsening Deep Sleep?
These factors can contribute to a lack of deep sleep.
Disturbed sleep drive
Sleeping or spending too much time in bed can weaken your sleep cravings. This means that you may partially lose the ability to sleep normally and sleep less soundly.
Some sleep disorders can interfere with deep sleep. People with sleep apnea often stop breathing during sleep. People with periodic limb movement during sleep (PLMS) involuntarily move their legs during sleep. Both disorders can cause frequent awakenings.
Sleep disturbances can reduce deep sleep. When these disorders are treated effectively, you can begin to sleep more soundly again. Over time, the balance of the sleep phases will return to normal.
Use and rejection of substances
Certain medications and other substances can reduce deep sleep. This includes:
- Opioid drugs
Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, and many other beverages. Caffeine can reduce deep sleep. This effect can appear even several hours after use.
Benzodiazepines, a class of tranquilizers that include valium (diazepam), can also reduce deep sleep. Opioids can have the same effect.
Some medications can increase deep sleep. This includes:
- Desirel ( trazodone )
- Lithobide (lithium)
Trazodone is an ancient antidepressant that is often used as a sleep aid. This medicine interacts with histamines, compounds that are released during allergic reactions. This seems to promote deeper sleep.
Marijuana can also improve slow wave sleep. Lithium, a medicine for bipolar disorder, can have a similar effect. These medications are sometimes prescribed for sleep disorders.
Some sleeping pills do not affect deep sleep in one way or another. These non-benzodiazepine hypnotics include:
- Ambien, Zolpimist, Edloire (zolpidem)
- Lunesta (esopiclone)
- Sonata (zaleplon)
Lack of deep sleep can be due to many reasons. Sleeping or spending too much time in bed can weaken your sleep cravings. Sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea, can cause you to wake up at night. Certain substances, like caffeine, can also affect how long you sleep.
Strategies to improve deep sleep
We know that deep sleep is important to your relationship to quality of sleep. We also know that it can affect your health and quality of life. However, it is surprising how little we know about how to improve sleep. Fortunately, there are several things you can try.
Prolonged wakefulness can improve your "homeostatic sleep drive." In other words, the longer you are awake, the more you want to sleep. When you finally fall asleep, you may have a deeper sleep.
This is called sleep consolidation or sleep restriction and is an effective way to treat insomnia. Sleep restriction is used as part of the cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) program . Lack of sleep can lead to deeper sleep.
Follow a circadian rhythm (internal clock)
Deep sleep follows a circadian rhythm , also known as the internal clock. You sleep more soundly early at night. When you sleep irregularly, it affects your deep sleep time. This can make you sleep less.
A regular bedtime and wake-up time can help. This includes weekends. It can also help you get some morning sun as soon as you wake up. Sunlight can serve as a cue for your circadian system.
Change behavior and environment
More research is needed on the effects of behavior and the environment on deep sleep. Exercise and daily physical activity can help. Unfortunately, we are less sure of details such as physical activity schedules.
You can also take a warm bath or shower 90 minutes before bedtime. A cooler bedroom can also improve deep sleep. Light, noise, and higher temperatures can have the opposite effect.
Devices that emit electrical patterns, vibrations, sounds, or light can help improve deep sleep. There is also a headband on the market that claims to improve deep sleep by altering brain waves, but its effectiveness has not been proven.
There are several things you can try to improve your sound sleep. Establish a regular sleep schedule to follow every day, even on weekends. Make sure your bedroom is cool and quiet, and don't use devices in bed. You can also try using a sleeping device.
Deep sleep, also called NREM stage 3 sleep, is the deepest stage of sleep. This stage of sleep is important for the body to rebuild itself and remove waste from the brain. Lack of deep sleep can damage your immune system and increase your risk for dementia and chronic diseases like cancer.
Decreased sleep cravings, sleep disorders, and substance abuse can lead to deep sleep disturbances. You can improve your deep sleep with regular sleep patterns or by changing your sleep conditions. If not, a board-certified sleep medicine physician can help.
Get the word of drug information
If you are concerned about your deep sleep, start with what you can control. Establish a regular sleep and wake time, including weekends. Create a sleeping shelter. Make your bedroom a place to sleep and avoid using electronics in bed.
Avoid sleeping and don't spend too much time sleeping. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to feel rested, but older adults may only need seven to eight hours. Limit your caffeine intake and avoid other substances that can reduce deep sleep.
If you suspect you may have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or insomnia, see your doctor. A board certified sleep medicine doctor can help you find the answers.
These simple changes can help you get the deep sleep you need for your long-term health and well-being.