Not only do we want to feel well rested in the morning and ready to tackle our often busy and productivity-driven lives. A proper deep sleep is the first line of defense in helping us to navigate our world. Here are a few tips to level up the quality of sleep using some science-backed tips that help you how to sleep faster and better.
What Actually Is Deep Sleep?
Deep sleep functions to restore us physically and mentally. Deep sleep is a time of nearly complete disengagement from the environment. It is very difficult to awaken a person in deep sleep. It is a sleep stage that allows our body to fully recover physically and mentally to begin anew.
Why Deep Sleep Is So Important and How Much We Need
Sleep is an important part of your daily routine—you spend about one-third of your time doing it. Quality sleep is as essential to survival as food and water. Without sleep, you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.
When Our Deep Sleep is Affected
Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body – from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance. Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, obesity. Deep sleep also affects our mental faculties and ability to focus throughout the day.
The Mental Benefits of Sleep
- Improves memory
- Lowers stress
- Spurs creativity
- Better focus
- Boosts your mood
- The Physical Benefits of Sleep
- Restores the body’s central nervous system
- Curbs inflammation
- Healthier hearts
- Improves athletic stamina
- Helps maintain healthy body weight by reducing stress hormones
- Strengthens your immune system
- Fires up your sex life, which is always healthy!
- Increases your pain threshold
Sleep and Aging
As we age sleep becomes more difficult to come by and maintain. Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults age 60 and older. People with this condition have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep due to a variety of reasons, health problems, chronic pain, or adjusted sleep patterns. Older people tend to also sleep less deeply as they move into the golden years. It may not have anything to do with aging or illness and could be a product of the environment or a change in sleep patterns. In that case, there are plenty of tools to try to enhance the quality of sleep you are getting.
How To Increase Deep Sleep: 32 Tips
- Set a sleep schedule—and stick with it – Start with the basics. One of the enemies of solid sleep is an inconsistent sleep schedule. This includes maintaining a fixed sleep schedule on the weekend. Sleeping in on weekends can drastically affect your natural cycles, making good sleep during the week even more difficult. And a good night’s sleep requires a good foundation. The more you switch your sleep schedule around, the more difficult it will be to get your natural cycle on a consistent schedule. An inconsistent sleep schedule will reflect in inconsistent sleep quality. Not keeping to a schedule will affect the quality of your sleep.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress – The source of your sleep struggles might be right in front you. Those nights of tossing and turning could be an obvious culprit – your mattress. It might be time to swap out your mattress. It’s important to recognize the signs. Your mattress could be causing sleep problems because it’s lost its cushioning or because it’s simply too small. it’s important to recognize the signs that it’s time to buy a new one. Expect that every 5-10 years you are going to need to invest in a new mattress.
- Choose the right pillow – The right pillow can have an enormous effect on your quality of sleep. You want to make sure you are sleeping on the right pillow. Stomach sleepers need a fairly thin, flat pillow to keep the spine aligned and unstrained during the night. While, side sleepers need a pillow that provides more support and feels a bit firmer to fill the distance between their ear and shoulder. The general wisdom out there is that pillows that have lived a full life need to be replaced a certain amount of time. WebMD reported that pillows should be replaced every 12 to 18 months.
- Regulate Bedroom Temperature – During sleep, our core body temperature dips, allowing us to slip into restorative REM and slow-wave sleep. A 2012 study confirms that when we turn up the heat, we wake up more often and sleep less deeply. “Heat can delay sleep and lead to sleep fragmentation,” says Ana Krieger, MD, medical director of the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Keep the thermostat a couple degrees cooler than during the day, about 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Eliminate Distractions – Keep anything that is activating or potentially stressful out of the bedroom. This could be anything from paperwork to items that remind you of unfinished projects. Cultivate a sanctuary in your bedroom. Power down all your devices at night. The blue light of our devices has the major effect of brain stimulation when what you really want to encourage brain relaxation. Have an hour before bed where your phone, television and computer are off limits. The current sleep science recommends that devices belong outside of the bedroom. Read a book, have a cup of tea and allow yourself to zone out – do something that does not required multitasking and don’t mindlessly thumb through social media. A recent Harvard University study showed that screen time before bed suppresses melatonin secretion, makes falling asleep take longer, and leaves you feeling less alert the next morning.
- Give yourself a massage – A self-massage hack is to simply slow down your moisturizing process at night. We are always rushing through our skincare routine. Instead, use this nightly moisturizing routine as an opportunity to really massage your body. While you are at it, definitely switch from the standard moisturizers to a pure oil like Sesame, Rose or Lavender, which work great for sleep.
- Try aromatherapy – Evidence shows that essential oils do wonders to relax the mind, body and spirit. Check out finding the right formula for sleep and invest in a quiet, clean, unlit, oil diffusers. Deep inhales of essential oil diffused air will surely help you come down from the all that excess mental stimulation at night. The scent of lavender acts as a mild relaxant. A small 2005 study found that the scent of lavender before bed led to a much deeper sleep.
- Kick your pet out – While your furry friends may relax you initially and help you get to sleep to start with, the truth is they tend to move around a lot in the night. Any adjustment they make in the middle of the night can wake you up as well. Furthermore, the animal dander they bring into bed can trigger allergies for those that suffer. I know you love the cuddles, but do yourself a favor and kick your pet out of bed.
- Exercise regularly – Those who exercise regularly and more vigorously get more sleep. In the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 Sleep In America survey, regular, vigorous exercisers reported getting the best sleep. “People who sleep better report exercising more, and people who exercise tend to sleep better,” says Matthew Buman, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise and wellness at Arizona State University and NSF poll task force member. Exercise is also a known stress-reliever, and — surprise, surprise — we sleep better when we’re more at peace. Remember not to exercise too close to bedtime. The intensity of your workouts can wind you up at night when you need to be focused on winding down.
- Get out of bed – The absolutely worst thing you can do for a bout of insomnia is to stay in bed when you can’t sleep. The more you try to get to sleep, the more difficult it will become. Continuing to lie there only stresses you out more, making it even more difficult to nod off.The best way to deal with this particular sleep struggle is to get out of bed, go into a different room, read a slightly boring book for ten minutes and then head back to bed when you’re feeling ready.The longer you stay in bed struggling to sleep the more ingrained that struggle will become. Mentally, you create a brain connection that your bed is a place of anxiety, rather than a place of rest. It’s far more helpful to simply get up, do something else for a short period (as long it’s relaxing and doesn’t involve bright light), allow your body to get drowsy naturally again and then your next attempt to fall asleep should be less anxiety-ridden.
- Yoga Poses – There are some wonderful yoga style poses that will calm the body by releasing any built up stress. Yoga Journal has a list of specific poses that are incredibly useful for deep sleep. An easy favorite is Standing Forward Bend Pose, which is an easy go to pose that requires you to begin in full standing mode and gently bending completely over your body so your head is fully upside down. This is an especially perfect pose for those nights when you just can’t get your mind to stop racing.
- Avoid caffeine after 2PM – If you’re really struggling to get those deep Z’s you might want to reconsider that afternoon pick me up. I get it. The afternoon rolls around and you need that extra burst of energy, However, you should consider a more relaxing alternative that still allows you the “ritual” of an afternoon break. Consider trying tea instead of coffee. Caffeine can be the worst for our sleep because the caffeine can take a while to exit our system and consequently, can be disruptive to our sleep. Studies have shown an enormous fluctuation in the amount of time it takes caffeine to exit our bodies from 1.5 hours to 9.5 hours depending on the individual and a number of other factors like age, metabolism and genetics are among just a few. It may be wise to consider cutting it out altogether.
- Eat a banana before bed – Potassium and magnesium are natural muscle relaxants, and bananas are a good source of both. They also contain the amino acid L-tryptophan, which gets converted to 5-HTP in the brain. The 5-HTP in turn is converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin.
- Fix Your Gut – Your gut microbiome has immense influence over your immune system health, brain function, hormone balance, and mood. Your gut has so much control over your bodily functions it’s referred to as the ‘second brain.’ Your gut and sleep patterns work in an axis – a two-way street of communication. A recent study suggests that both the microbial rhythm of your gut and that of your circadian rhythm greatly influence each other, which may directly affect your quality of sleep.
- Mind what you eat before bed – Your body isn’t meant to be digesting at night. The metabolism can keep you up at night. If you are prone to eating meat before bed, your metabolism has to work harder to digest that protein throughout the night costing you some precious sleep quality. Avoid eating heavy meals too close to bedtime. Perhaps, avoid meat altogether at night so your metabolism gets a thorough break at night. Then see how you feel.
- Stop smoking – Like you need another reason to quit smoking. Nicotine, like caffeine, is a stimulant, and consequently could keep you from much-needed rest. Smokers are four times more likely to say they feel tired when they wake up than nonsmokers, according to a 2008 study.
- Cool Your Bed – There are few things worse than spending a night in which you could be sound asleep instead tossing and turning, stuck to heavy, sweaty sheets. When you’re hot, there’s really no comfortable position to be in. And if you’re sleeping next to a partner, the odds of waking up hot (and staying wide awake) are much higher. Try purchasing cooling technology for your bed like cooling pillows and cooling sheets. These will give you relief from that summer weather and keep your body temperature down so you can fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Drink Kava – In many of the cultures of the South Pacific region, kava plays an important role in society. Because of its soothing, soporific effects, it is used medicinally to treat sleeplessness and anxiety. The active ingredients in kava root, kavalactones, affect the brain’s limbic system. Within the limbic system is the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for regulating feelings of fear and anxiety. basic rhythms kavalactones in kava have been shown to bind to the receptors in the amygdala and this is thought to be the reason why kava calms the mind and generates feelings of an improved sense of wellbeing – perfect for getting to sleep. It’s best prepared and consumed a couple hours before you plan to sleep, preferably before you eat or 2-3 hours afterwards as kava’s effectiveness is greatly diminished on a full stomach.
- Have Sex – A 2014 poll found that some one in six people nod off more quickly after sex—for so many reasons. Not only can the physical and emotional intimacy help quell feelings of anxiety and depression that could otherwise keep you up, but having an orgasm triggers the release of sleep-friendly hormones: Prolactin promotes relaxation and drowsiness, oxytocin lowers output of the stress hormone cortisol, and heightened estrogen enhances the REM cycle for a longer lasting, deeper sleep.
- Stress Less – Most days, we don’t give ourselves permission to stop, think, and process what’s happened during the day. It’s no secret that there is a direct correlation between stress and insomnia. You can plan ahead to combat worry. It can be just 15 minutes a day, at least two hours before bed, simply make a “worry” list and come up with possible solutions to your concerns. This way, you have at least begun to acknowledge all of those racing thoughts before bedtime.
- Address Sleep Apnea – sleep apnea is a possibly-harmful sleep condition in which people stop breathing for brief periods during the night, sometimes as many as hundreds of times a night. You can try combating sleep apnea through some simple lifestyle changes like losing weight or avoiding alcohol at nighttime. However, to truly address the core issue it’s often in the form of a therapeutic treatment known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine — which is treated through your doctor.
- Have a routine – It’s just as much about how you prepare for sleep than actually falling into REM sleep. Having a routine and sticking with it can train the brain into sleep preparation. As you go through your routine, whatever that may be (yoga, bath, meditation, anything on this list that speaks to you) your brain will begin to adjust to that routine and will learn when it’s time to go to bed. You will find yourself automatically able to simply turn off. It just takes a little “brain training”.
- Set an alarm – Night owl alert! Do you find yourself getting into bed far beyond the advised window of getting a solid night’s sleep? If you are consistently trying to get to sleep on time and just can’t seem to manage it, we recommend setting an alarm.
- Review your medications – Certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs can sabotage your sleep. Some drugs act as a stimulate so be careful of taking it too late in the day. If you have never had trouble sleeping before, review yur medications with your doctor. It may be one drug or, likely, a combination of drugs you are prescribed that is causing fitful sleep.
- Sip milk – The experts go back and forth on this one (with the dairy industry funding plenty of research), but there is some evidence that this tried and true sleep aid really does work. Although, according to scientific analysis, combining milk with a carbohydrate-rich food like oatmeal, granola, or toast makes it much more effective. Like bananas, milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which turns to 5-HTP and releases relaxing serotonin. It’s also high in calcium and other minerals, known to have a relaxing effect.
- Eliminate sneaky light sources – Light sources from your chargers to digital alarm clocks to night lights to sleeping with the television on to outdoor street lights that sneak through your blinds can have a really negative affect on your sleep. These are the sources that you don’t notice but can have a considerable impact on the quality of your sleep.The sneaky light that we ignore at night can cause sleepiness during the day and at its worst, it can trigger or exacerbate a depression, which is closely linked to sleep. Light sources that you leave on at night can possibly increase your risk of sleep disorders and other health problems. Our body’s basic rhythms, including our sleep/wake cycles, are tied to light exposure because melatonin, a hormone which is required to produce sleep, is suppressed by light exposure. If all else fails – try using a comfy sleep mask to keep the light out. Bright light is one of the biggest triggers to our brains that it’s time to be awake and alert, so start sending your bain the opposite signal earlier in the evening. Everyday Health reports that “bright light late in the evening — around midnight — can push your sleep/wake cycle back by half an hour or so, making you sleepy later in the evening the following night.On the other hand, bright light early in the morning, when you first wake up, advances your cycle, bringing on sleepiness earlier. For people whose light exposure and sleep habits are chaotic, the end result is a disordered sleep/wake cycle and related poor health outcomes.” The connection between nighttime lighting, sleep disorders, and health risks is so strong that the American Medical Association recently called for the development of nighttime lighting technologies that would not interfere with the body’s basic rhythms.
- Breathe deeply – Breathing has a built-in stress reliever for our bodies. Breathing can have a huge effect on our stress levels. We can activate breath patterns that stimulate or relax our bodies and minds. NPR reported, that “slow, deep breathing actually stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction — the one that calms us down”
- Drink less alcohol – A nightcap before bed may help you get to sleep faster, it won’t keep you asleep. In fact, the excess sugar from the alcohol will likely either give you a fitful sleep or wake you up in the middle of the night. “Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted. Additionally, that deeper sleep will probably promote snoring and poorer breathing. So, one shouldn’t expect better sleep with alcohol.” Alcohol at night is a no-no for healthy sleep!
- Drink less water before bed – this will help curb those pesky middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet! They disrupt the deep sleep you previously were enjoying and often keep you awake in the middle of the night. Be sure not to dehydrate yourself, but definitely consider cutting yourself off from drinking water up to a few hours before bedtime.
- Wear socks – Seriously! Having warm extremities seem to indicate how fast (or not!) you fall asleep. Slip on some socks to get to sleep faster.
- Take a warm bath – This is tip that works wonders on the muscles as well as the mind. If you want to level up your bath further, pour a cup or two of mineral salts and epsom salts to soak. These salts work in the same way a hot spring or a hot tub affects the biological state of the body. Salts are a natural relaxant. They not only detoxify but help you release any tension or stress that has been stored up in the body.The warm water mixed with salts will help you soak up all that magnesium and minerals to truly assist in stress release and promote ultimate relaxation prior to bedtime. CNN reports that “a cozy soak raises your body temperature slightly. Then, when you hop out, you’ll cool down quickly, which mimics the natural drop in body temperature caused by the brain as it readies the body for sleep.” It will help you not only fall asleep much quicker than normal, but set the tone for a much deeper, more satisfying sleep as well.
- Try Visualization – I’m not promoting counting sheep; however, there is plenty of evidence to suggest visualisation can encourage a deep sleep. Visualization also shares roots with hypnosis. So, I suppose you can think of these visualization exercises as a kind of self-hypnosis. Visualization exercises combined with breathing techniques you be heading to dream town faster than you can blink