How to Get Deeper, More Restorative Sleep


Waking up feeling groggy is a pretty lousy way to start the day. Getting more deep sleep can help you feel more refreshed, sure. But exactly how do you do that, especially if you’re a notorious toss-and-turner? Here’s how to drop the hectic world of work appointments, social obligations and other stresses and get more deep sleep.

What is Deep Sleep, Anyway?

Deep sleep is stage three in sleeping, where it is more difficult to wake a sleeper. It’s when you are the most unconscious throughout the sleep cycle. And for children, deep sleep is when growth occurs, explains Bill Tuck, Certified Sleep Science Coach.

A normal sleep cycle consists of stage 1, 2, 3, as well as REM sleep. Getting through the four stages of sleep takes roughly 90-120 minutes. So if you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night, Tuck says, you’re getting into deep sleep about four or five times per night. Any interruptions in the sleep cycle through noise or physical disturbance can cause you to start the process over again. Yes, from the very beginning (so goodbye, deep sleep for now!). That’s not great, because deep sleep is when the body recovers and recharges more so than it does in any other parts of the sleep cycle. Plus, it’s the stage of sleep when you have the most memory consolidation, says Ulysses Magalang, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “It’s also thought to be a recuperating part of your sleep [where] you get rid of all the toxins that accumulate in the brain,” he says. “It’s also the time when growth hormones are secreted.”


Because deep sleep is only taking place in roughly 15- to 30-minute increments, it’s smart to adhere to the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, so you get enough of the deep stuff.

How Do You Know You’re in Deep Sleep?

Well, you won’t know. And there aren’t signs that another person looking in on you would see. Morning can be somewhat of an indicator. “If you did not have refreshing sleep, usually that means that you did not get a deep sleep,” says Dr. Magalang. The only way to know for sure if you went into deep sleep is to monitor your brain waves, which isn’t really doable for the average man, now. So the best you can do is follow the tips for getting more sleep and help more deep sleep follow.

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How to Get More Sleep

Avoid disruptors

Avoid noise, smoking, alcohol and coffee close to bedtime. These disrupters stimulate the body and keep you awake, so, of course, it’ll be harder to get into deep sleep.

Work out

Moderate exercise has been shown to help increase the amount of deep sleep you get, which is important for recovery,” says Conor Heneghan, PhD, Lead Sleep Research Scientist at Fitbit. Just make sure not to exercise too close to bed. Aim to work out about three hours before you plan to turn in. The endorphins released from exercise and the heightened body temperature they create (your body likes to be cooler to sleep) can impede your ability to fall asleep.

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Keep the room dark and cold

For a good deep sleep, blackout shades can help you feel like it’s night, even if you live in an environment full of light pollution. Keep the thermostat around 67 to 70 degrees F.

Consider getting a sound machine

Block out noise with noise but one that’s a fan sound or white noise. Research related to sleep and low-frequency noise suggests that listening to these sounds may enhance a person’s deep sleep state. These other products can bias you toward a better night’s sleep as well.

Have a schedule

Maintaining a regular bedtime helps you go into deep sleep. Trying to “catch up” with weekend sleep has consequences; it can disturb the body’s drive to sleep. So keep as much of a schedule as possible to enjoy the restorative benefits of deep sleep.

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