Deep sleep (also referred to as slow wave sleep) is one of four stages our body goes through during the sleep cycle. It contributes greatly to proper brain functioning, storing memories and aids in better bodily functions. To fully understand what deep sleep is and how much of it is ideal, we need to understand the sleep cycle.
Our bodies go through four stages of sleep consisting of two categories, namely, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Each category consists of important stages. Specifically, these stages include drowsiness, light sleep, moderate to deep sleep, deep sleep and finally, dreaming. This makes up our sleep cycle and on average we cycle through these stages four to six times every night.
What is Deep Sleep?
The deep sleep stage is especially concerned with brain health and functioning. It helps the brain rest and recover to improve functioning, repair our overall body, and replenish energy. Our brain is constantly taking in information throughout the day and there is only so much information it can take in before it needs rest. Deep sleep provides this rest.
Deep sleep plays a key role in storing, preserving, and consolidating memories and remembering facts, so the next morning it is ready to take in more information. Deep sleep also contributes to keeping our hormones balanced. This allows for regeneration and repair of muscles, tissues, and cells in the body.
Other functions of deep sleep:
- strengthens the immune system
- regulates blood sugar levels
- helps control weight
- minimizes the likelihood of developing chronic diseases in the long run.
- helps store new memories
- provides the mind a much-needed rest to function at its best the next day
Let’s explore the sleep cycle step-by-step to understand each stage and its functions.
Stages (Sleep Cycles)
The first three stages that the body cycles through are the non-REM stages:
The first stage of the sleep cycle is a transitioning period between the body’s waking and sleeping state. It is a short period and can be regarded as a light sleep stage as you are not completely unconscious. A notification from your phone or a barking dog can wake you up easily.
During this stage, our brain relaxes along with our body and muscles. It is characterized by slow rolling eye movements and slower brain activity. The heart rate and breathing rate start to slow down and your body starts relaxing.
The second stage of non-REM sleep is when the body starts transitioning from the lighter stage to deeper stage. It lasts around 30 to 60 minutes and is characterized by even slower heart and breathing rates. The muscles are further relaxed and brain waves slow down.
This is where your body has officially transitioned into the deep sleep stage where it may stay for about 20 to 40 minutes. It is also known as slow wave sleep or delta sleep because of the brain activity occurring. Heart rate and breathing is at their lowest during this stage of the sleep cycle.
Brain waves become slower and less responsive to any sensory stimulation or external noises. You may often sleep through your alarms without waking up as it is difficult to wake up from this stage. Sleepwalking may occur during this stage.
Stage Four (REM Sleep):
This stage of the sleep cycle is different from the first three. It is a super deep phase of sleep where your muscles are so relaxed that they are paralyzed while your eyes move rapidly under your eyelids, hence the name “rapid eye movement.” The body goes into REM sleep about 90 minutes after falling asleep once it transitions through the first three stages.
The heart rate and breathing rate start speeding up and brain waves resemble that of the wakeful state as this stage is closer to the wakeful state than the rest state. It is therefore easier to wake up from this sleep stage as you become susceptible to external noises or sensations. It is also the stage where people experience vivid dreams. Adults spend around 2 hours in the REM sleep stage which accounts for about 20 to 25 percent of sleeping time.
How Many Hours of Deep Sleep is Ideal?
Seeing how crucial deep sleep stage is for a healthy mind and body, it is important to get the right amount every night. Deep sleep helps you feel restored and energized. The ideal amount will depend on how much overall sleep you get every night as the deep sleep stage lasts around 40 minutes. An ideal night of sleep for an adult would be between 7 to 8 hours which allows the body to get a good amount of deep sleep during the third round of the sleep cycle.
Missing out on sleep takes a toll on the body and can affect the brain and heart in the long run. An insufficient amount of sleep may lead to memory and cognitive issues, making it difficult to remember details and retain information. For example, you may feel groggy and experience brain fog after a night or two of insufficient sleep.
Sleep deprivation can be highly negative in the long run so getting more sleep should be a priority for everyone.
There are some habits you can incorporate into your daily sleeping schedule to ensure a better sleeping pattern overall:
- Avoid the use of smart phones and electronic devices near bedtime because blue light exposure reduces melatonin levels in the body causing your mind to become alert. This disturbs your sleeping patterns.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine as they interfere with your sleep by affecting your body’s biological functioning.
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule and ensure you get the ideal number of hours every night.
- Make your room conducive to sleep by eliminating bright lights and keeping the room dark and cold.
- Practice moderate to vigorous exercise to promote a better sleep. However, avoid working out too close to your bedtime as it can make you lose sleep.
Prioritizing sleep is extremely important so that you’re able to function efficiently and feel energized throughout the day. Getting a full 7-8 hours of sleep allows for extended periods of time for the body to effectively pass through all sleep cycles, giving sufficient time to every stage to ensure maximum benefits for the mind and body. Here at Can-i Wellness, we support your fitness, health and wellness goals. Our Can-i Sleep oral spray supplement is formulated with the best natural ingredients to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling amazing.