Welcome to your deeper sleep, the holy grail of sleep stages, thanks to its powerful restorative benefits
It’s one thing to fall asleep. It’s another to sleep deeply and truly to tap into the restorative powers of a good night’s sleep. How do we get to that place? Experts have a wide range of opinions about that question.
But first, what is deep sleep? Fortunately, we have some definitive information, thanks to a team of 1930s researchers who discovered a number of different sleep stages – and the importance of them. Throughout the night as the stages repeat, we cycle in and out of deep sleep, also known as delta sleep, slow wave sleep, or the clinical sounding N3.
During this phase, it’s more difficult to wake us and there’s a greater chance of sleepwalking. It’s also the time when human growth hormones, which are instrumental in cell repair, are released. It’s perhaps the most important sleep stage and the one that – if we spend enough time here each night – will allow us to wake feeling energized and refreshed.
What keeps us from getting enough deep sleep each night? To list just a few: stress, aging, sleep apnea, certain drugs and a smorgasbord of sleep disruptions, from crying infants to thunderstorms.
The good news is that enjoying deep, restful sleep is within your reach.
10 tips for better, deeper sleep naturally
1. Exercise daily. Hoff points out that physical activity can bring us energy during the day, but it can also help us sleep better at night as our body and mind recharge and reset. While vigorous exercise is recommended early in the day for an optimal sleep aid, light exercise at any time of day – like an after-dinner walk – is useful as well.
2. Avoid naps. “While this tip isn’t recommended for everyone, if you have trouble falling asleep or wake up frequently during the night, consider cutting out any naps during the day,” says Caitlin Hoff, a health & safety investigator with org. This will allow your body to become tired at the end of the day when you most want to sleep. Longer naps may include deep sleep, which can curb sleep drive and cause problems for people with insomnia. If you must nap, keep it short – about 10-20 minutes.
3. Limit distractions. It’s worth repeating that it’s important to create a sleep environment designed for a good night’s sleep. Consider light-blocking curtains to remove outside light. Move electronics out of the bedroom to avoid sleep-wrecking blue light, which throws off your circadian rhythms. And if you have loud neighbors or housemates with a different sleep schedule, Hoff recommends a white noise machine or earplugs to block out distracting sounds when you’re trying to sleep.
4. Banish unhealthy habits. Alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine have all been known to disrupt sleep. Limit caffeine consumption to morning hours only. Sleeping on a too-full stomach can cause heartburn and indigestion so try to eat your last meal a couple of hours before heading to bed.
5. Boost your magnesium intake. Dr. Carolyn Dean, a sleep, diet and nutrition expert and author of The Magnesium Miracle, says that magnesium facilitates sleep regulating melatonin (sleep hormone) production, relieves muscle tension that can disrupt sleep and prevent restful sleep and activates GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system and its activation favors sleep. Most women (about 75%) do not get their recommended daily allowance of this mineral. To get more, prepare a water bottle with a teaspoon or two of magnesium citrate powder and sip this throughout the day and have available at your bedside. In this form, it’s fast acting and highly absorbable. It will help you get restful, rejuvenating sleep.
6. Remove your clock (and any alarms) from your room. The noise might distract you and looking at them when you wake to use the bathroom may cause mild anxiety, according to Oliver Trunkett from SortOutMyLife.com, which offers advice for people trying to improve their lives and reach their goals.
7. Completely black out your room as much as possible. According to Trunkett, any light can slow down or completely halt melatonin production in your body, which worsens the quality of your sleep.
8. Get outside during the day. At least 20-30 minutes of fresh air and sunshine will help strengthen your internal clock, Trunkett says. Sunlight sends a signal to your body that says, “Yep, the sun is definitely out and I should be awake right now.” Later on, it will also help your body transition to sleep mode.
9. Sip a cup of tea. But not just any tea. A new option now available to those who want a better night’s sleep is an all-natural hemp tea. Cannabinoid-infused (CBD) herbal blends from The Tea Can Company can ease anxiety, depression and minor pain, useful for helping with sleep. It’s available in mild and high strength. The teas do not contain THC, like pot does, and are legal in all 50 states in the US and a number of countries around the world.
10. Count your blessings. “Trying to go to bed while thinking about the latest stressors you’re facing or right after spending a chunk of time in front of a screen tends to take longer and lead to less fulfilling sleep,” says Raffi Bilek, a therapist and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. Rest is as important for our mental health as it is for our physical health, so going to bed in a calm and happy frame of mind is a good bet to improving both.