How can I increase my deep sleep hours?

Getting enough high-quality deep sleep is extremely important for your health and wellbeing. During deep sleep, your body repairs itself, builds bone and muscle, sharpens your memory, and releases important hormones that regulate growth and appetite. Not getting enough can negatively impact your mood, focus, energy levels, and overall health.

What is deep sleep?

Deep sleep, also known as slow wave sleep, is one of the stages of sleep that occurs during the night. There are two main stages of sleep: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is further divided into three stages:

  • Stage 1 – Light sleep
  • Stage 2 – True sleep
  • Stage 3 – Deep sleep

Deep sleep generally happens in longer intervals during the first half of the night. This stage is characterized by very low frequency brain waves, slower breathing and heart rate, and limited muscle activity and eye movement. Deep sleep is believed to be the most restorative stage of sleep.

How much deep sleep do I need?

Experts recommend getting at least 90 minutes of deep sleep per night for optimal health and functioning. However, deep sleep needs can vary from person to person. On average, adults spend about 13-23% of their nightly sleep in the deep sleep stage. Anything under 10% may be a sign that you’re not getting enough.

Why is deep sleep important?

Deep sleep provides many essential benefits:

  • Brain function: Deep sleep allows your brain to restore itself which supports memory consolidation and learning.
  • Immunity: Certain antibodies and proteins that boost immunity are secreted during deep sleep.
  • Metabolism: Deep sleep regulates your appetite and glucose metabolism thanks to hormone release.
  • Muscle repair: Growth hormone is released during deep sleep which helps rebuild muscles and tissues.
  • Heart health: Deep sleep helps reduce blood pressure and regulate heart rhythm.

Getting enough deep sleep ensures you wake up feeling refreshed and allows your body to function optimally.

How can I get more deep sleep?

Here are 10 tips to help you get more restorative deep sleep each night:

1. Set a schedule

Having a consistent sleep and wake time helps regulate your circadian rhythm so your body expects deep sleep at about the same time each night. Try to get to bed and wake up at the same time daily, even on weekends.

2. Optimize your environment

Create a cool, relaxing sleep space. Make sure your room is completely dark and quiet. Invest in curtains, earplugs, a white noise machine, or whatever you need to minimize light and noise disturbance.

3. Limit caffeine and alcohol

Avoid consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. Alcohol can make you drowsy at first but leads to poor quality fragmented sleep later in the night.

4. Exercise during the day

Moderate aerobic exercise helps promote deep sleep. However, avoid vigorous workouts close to bedtime which can have the opposite effect.

5. Wind down before bed

Develop a relaxing pre-bed routine like taking a bath, reading, or light stretches to help your body and mind transition into sleep mode.

6. Go screen-free

Shut off phones, tablets, computers and TVs at least one hour before bed to avoid blue light exposure which inhibits melatonin release.

7. Consider supplements

Talk to your doctor about melatonin, magnesium, glycine or other supplements that can help boost deep sleep.

8. Skip naps

Daytime naps, especially later in the day, can fragment nighttime sleep. If you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes before 3 pm.

9. Manage stress

Anxiety and rumination can interfere with deep sleep. Try relaxing activities like meditation, deep breathing, or light yoga to calm your mind before bed.

10. See your doctor

Rule out any underlying conditions that could be interrupting deep sleep like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or thyroid issues. Your doctor may recommend therapy or other interventions.

Other tips for optimal sleep

Here are some additional habits that support high-quality nightly sleep:

  • Eat a light dinner at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid excessive fluids before bed to limit bathroom trips.
  • Make your bedroom dark, cool and comfortable.
  • Invest in a high-quality mattress and pillows.
  • Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes.
  • Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine.
  • Write down worries or to-do lists to clear your mind before bed.
  • Diffuse calming essential oils like lavender or chamomile.
  • Take a warm bath 1-2 hours before bed.
  • Consider blackout curtains if outside light enters your room.
  • Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 15-20 minutes.

Lifestyle factors affecting deep sleep

Certain lifestyle habits and health issues can interfere with deep sleep. Here are some of the top factors that can reduce deep sleep time:

Lifestyle Factor Impact on Deep Sleep
Caffeine consumption Blocks adenosine receptors in the brain preventing drowsiness
Alcohol before bed Causes sleep disruptions and fragmented sleep patterns later at night
Daytime napping Reduces sleep drive at night
Night shift work Disrupts circadian rhythm making it harder to initiate deep sleep
Sleep apnea Causes oxygen desaturation and frequent awakenings that disrupt deep sleep
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) Nighttime acid reflux disturbs sleep onset and continuity
Chronic pain Pain makes it difficult to initiate and remain in deep sleep
Anxiety and stress Activation of the nervous system inhibits relaxation needed for deep sleep

Improving sleep hygiene, following a proper sleep schedule, and managing underlying health conditions can all help minimize lifestyle factors that may be robbing you of precious deep sleep time.

Signs you’re not getting enough deep sleep

Here are some common signs that you may not be getting enough quality deep sleep:

  • Excessive daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating during the day
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Increased clumsiness or difficulty with coordination
  • Sugar and junk food cravings
  • Waking up frequently at night
  • Waking up feeling groggy and unrefreshed
  • Reliance on caffeine to function during the day
  • Worsening depression or anxiety
  • Decreased performance at school or work

Pay attention to these signs from your body. Prioritize sleep health and consistency in your schedule. Seek medical advice if symptoms persist despite your best efforts.

When to see a doctor

Talk to your doctor if you experience:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness for over a month
  • Loud snoring or breathing cessations during sleep
  • Chronic insomnia – difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Leg twitching or uncomfortable sensations in your legs at night
  • Sleepwalking, night terrors or acting out dreams

A sleep specialist can help identify if you have an underlying condition like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, circadian rhythm disorders or other issues that require treatment.


Deep sleep is vital for mental and physical health. Adults should aim for at least 90 minutes per night. Establish good sleep habits and hygiene. Optimize your sleep environment and limit alcohol and caffeine. Manage stress, exercise smartly, and consider supplements if needed. See a doctor if symptoms persist to improve your deep sleep and overall rest.

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