It’s said that we spend one-third of our lives sleeping (or attempting to do so). However, with all the gadgets, games, inflation, and whatnot keeping us from getting our quality shuteye, it’s no wonder many of us are left to seek out how to get more deep sleep.
It’s a good thing Dr. Michael Breus, a.k.a. the Sleep Doctor, who’s also the trainer of Mindvalley’s The Mastery of Sleep Quest, has the know-how to solve this dilemma. With his expertise, here are insights and tips on how to get more deep sleep.
The reality is, our brain often has too many tabs open. When we allow ourselves to power off for the night, though, we might just find that we’re better equipped to face the world.
What Is Deep Sleep?
Slow-wave sleep, more commonly referred to as deep sleep, is when the brain waves are long and slow (this is known as delta waves). This stage of the sleep cycle is associated with the deepest levels of relaxation, restoration, and healing. It allows us to wake up feeling refreshed and awake, rather than sluggish and lethargic.Sleep is a prescription for rejuvenating your mind and your body. — @thesleepdoctor Click To Tweet
There are a few important things that happen during deep sleep. Thanks to the part of the brain called the pons, breathing and heart rate slow down, and the muscles relax. The brain also releases growth hormones, which are important for metabolism, muscle, tissue, and organ repair, and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Now, when you go to bed, your body doesn’t go from zero to delta waves. Rather, there are several stages of sleep that you go through—deep sleep being one of them.
Understanding the stages of sleep
To get a better picture of when deep sleep occurs, it helps first to understand the stages of sleep.
Typically, we go through four to six sleep cycles per night. “Interestingly, not all sleep cycles are created equal,” explains Dr. Breus, but on average, they last around 90 minutes each (which equals about six to nine hours of sleep).
When does deep sleep occur?
Deep sleep is when the body is in a physically restorative state. Therefore, it occurs in stage three of the sleep cycle, or, as Dr. Breus calls it, “wake up and feel great” sleep.
While it’s different for each person, the descent into deep sleep usually happens within an hour of falling asleep. As the night progresses, its duration decreases with each cycle.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a stage where people are easily awakened. However, if they are jolted from their slumber, it can cause sleep inertia, making them feel mentally foggy with difficulty concentrating.
How much deep sleep do you need?
There’s no definitive number to how much deep sleep you actually need, explains Dr. Breus. However, because it’s part of the cycle, the amount is factored into the overall sleep duration per night—the recommended for adults is between seven to nine hours of sleep.
It goes without saying that getting good-quality sleep is essential. When there’s a lack of it, it can contribute to the detriment of our health.
What Causes a Lack of Deep Sleep?
When our bodies are deprived of something essential, it can be the foundation of many mental, physical, and spiritual health problems. So what causes a lack of deep sleep? Tons of things—lifestyle, food quality and intake, environment, and so on and so forth.
Here are a few to highlight:
- Going to bed late on purpose. Revenge bedtime procrastination is another name for it. It’s a phenomenon in which “people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours.”
- Struggling with a sleep disorder. Insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy are just a few of many sleep disorders that can leave people seeking out how to get more deep sleep.
- Consuming stimulants and medications. It’s well known that stimulants like coffee, caffeinated beverages, and even alcohol can prolong deep sleep after consumption. Moreover, research shows that pain medications like opioids and valium are known to have the same effect.
- Poor sleep hygiene. This is all about behaviors, habits, and environmental factors that can impact our nighttime slumber. It includes sleeping on a comfortable bed, ensuring the bedroom temperature is optimal, doing sleep meditations before bedtime, etc.
- Having a weakened sleep drive. This is part of sleep/wake homeostasis, where our need for sleep, a.k.a., sleep drive, balances our need for wakefulness. It triggers our somnolence when we’ve been awake for a long period of time. And when we spend too much time in bed, it can weaken our sleep drive.
There are many health-related things you can “fix” by just going off into dreamland. As Dr. Breus says, “Everything you do, you do better with a good night’s sleep.”
How to Get More Deep Sleep: 5 Tips From Dr. Michael Breus
“You can last three days without water, thirty days without food…you can last seven days without sleep“—that’s the bold quote by the Sleep Doctor himself. While there’s no definitive amount that could lead to death, Dr. Breus has the right idea: chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of premature death, according to one study by neuroscientists from Harvard Medical School.
With newfangled technology, social media, lifestyle choices, and economic uncertainties all contributing to sleep deprivation, it’s no wonder the search for “how to get more deep sleep” has increased. So here are five deep sleep tips from Dr. Breus in his Quest on Mindvalley.
1. Identify your chronotype
Everyone’s sleep needs are different. So the “eight hours a night” advice? It’s a myth, according to the Sleep Doctor, who, himself, naturally needs six-and-a-half hours of sleep.
“We know that the average sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes, and the average person has five of these cycles,” he explains. “If you look closely, you’ll see that this equation leads to only seven and a half hours of sleep.”
Now, chronotype is basically your body’s sleep schedule. And it’s categorized by animals—bear, wolf, lion, and dolphin.
You can take a quiz to find out yours and learn more about each in the Mindvalley YouTube video:
2. Do a bedroom makeover
The look and feel of where you lay your head at night can greatly impact your waking and sleeping hours. Light, noise levels, temperature, and comfort are all factors in your sleep quality, according to the Sleep Foundation.
“Take some recommended actions to improve your bedroom,” advises Dr. Breus. This includes the following:
- Pillow(s) and mattress you lay on,
- Amount of light that comes into the room,
- Amount of noise around you, and
- Aroma to enhance your slumber.
These don’t need to be complete renovations; just small, simple changes can do great wonders.
3. Use caffeine sparingly
There are benefits to moderate caffeine consumption—it increases alertness and reaction time, improves cognition and focus, relieves pain, and others.
But it also has its drawbacks. For instance, it can increase anxiety in some people, cause stomach upset, and, as research shows, disrupt your sleep.
“Caffeine can reduce slow-wave sleep—remember: that’s your physically restorative sleep—and decrease total sleep time,” explains Dr. Breus. He adds that sensitivities may vary from person to person, but the longer you consume caffeinated beverages, you build a tolerance. As a result, you may not feel the effects of caffeine and not realize it’s affecting your sleep.
The half-life of caffeine in your body is about six to eight hours. That means if you have 100mg of caffeinated beverage in the morning, you’ll have 50mg left in your system six to eight hours later (which doesn’t affect the ability to fall asleep). So, according to the Sleep Doctor, if you want to go to bed at 10 p.m. without caffeine affecting your system, you should stop drinking it at 2 p.m.
4. Eat foods that help you sleep
If you’ve ever had turkey during Thanksgiving, you know good and well how sleepy you can get afterward. That’s because certain foods (like turkey) can help induce sleep.
So when you’re looking at how to get more deep sleep, nutrition is a factor to consider:
- Protein. A low protein intake is linked to short sleep and oversleeping, according to Dr. Breus. So pay attention to how much you consume. His recommendation? “Not too much and not too little.”
- Carbohydrates. Cut the sugar; add more fiber. Sugar leads to daytime sleepiness; a high-fiber diet, on the other hand, leads to better overall sleep.
- Fats. Foods that are low in carbs and high in healthy fats and proteins, like salmon and avocado, can help improve your sleep quality and increase delta waves.
- Vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B helps with overall sleep regulation, magnesium helps with melatonin production, and zinc helps you sleep well throughout the night.
That being said, “foods themselves do not make you sleep,” says Dr. Breus. “There are foods with natural properties to help you relax your body and then, you can fall asleep.”
5. Create a sleep-friendly exercise routine
The benefits of exercise are aplenty. And when it comes to how to get more deep sleep, here are five of them:
- Improves sleep quality,
- Increases sleep duration,
- Reduces stress, and
- Helps with sleep disorders.
Several studies also back this up. Additionally, “there’s no one right time of day to exercise,” according to Dr. Breus. The best time to be physically active is based on your unique chronotype.
Sleep Well, Stay Well
“You can sleep when you die” is so passé. Sleep is one of the pillars of a healthy life.
And you learn how to get more deep sleep with the Sleep Doctor himself. His The Mastery of Sleep Quest on Mindvalley is specifically suited if you…
- Want to feel in control of your days,
- Feel consistent energy, and
- Have more focus at work and throughout the day.
When you sign up for a Mindvalley account, you can access the first few lessons of this quest for free. What’s more, you’ll have access to the entire library of meditations, including the ones that are focused on helping you fall asleep.
As the Dalai Lama says, “Sleep is the best meditation.” And the one who can help you get there can be found at Mindvalley.