How much deep sleep do you need?
How do you wake up in the morning? Is it by groaning and hitting the snooze button for the third time? Or is it by slowly feeling the warmth of the sun through the window, hearing the birds chirp gently, and rising purposefully to meet the day?
I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t resonate with the whole peacefully waking up thing. You could say I’m not a morning person…but if I got enough sleep, maybe I would be. The truth is I can’t remember a time when I was consistently getting enough sleep to find out.
In 1942, the average American slept for almost 8 hours a night. Now, the average American gets less than 7 hours of sleep a night. That means the majority of Americans are below that magic 8-hour mark. Are you?
…I’m guessing that’s a yes. Sure, some nights are better than others, but very few of us sleep for more than 8 hours every single night. Between work expectations, technology, and heightened stress, things just aren’t the same as they were in 1942.
Sadly, sleep deprivation has some startling consequences:
- Mood changes
- Trouble focusing
- Weakened immune system
- Memory problems
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Increased risk of diabetes and heart disease
- Poor balance
- Early aging
- Low sex drive
In short, sleeping less than 8 hours per night is not doing you any favors. If you’re sleeping less than 7 hours per night, you’re at an even greater risk of sleep deprivation. Are your eyelids feeling a little bit heavy at the thought of sleep? Promise me you’ll do whatever it takes to get your full 8 hours of sleep tonight.
Beyond the necessity of getting sufficient sleep every night, it’s important to be aware of how your body moves through the various stages of sleep so that you can make sure you’re getting enough of the most crucial types of sleep.
The four stages of sleep
You’re probably heard of the 90-minute sleep cycle, but do you know what it consists of? There are four main stages of sleep, each with its own characteristics. Most scientists agree that deep sleep is the most important type of sleep, followed by REM sleep.
1. Transitional phase
The initial stage of sleep is essentially a transition from wakefulness to sleep. It typically lasts around 5 minutes. This is the stage when you may experience a sensation of falling. If you’re woken up during this phase, you’ll probably feel like you didn’t sleep at all.
2. Light sleep
In the next stage, your heart rate slows down and your body temperature decreases as your body prepares to enter deep sleep. This stage makes up the majority of your sleep cycle, lasting anywhere from 10-60 minutes per cycle.
3. Deep sleep
Deep sleep is marked by delta waves, extremely slow brain waves. It is recognized as the most critical stage of restorative sleep. There are numerous benefits of deep sleep, including its potential to protect you against the risk of Alzheimer’s. It’s quite difficult to awaken someone in this stage of the sleep cycle; if you do, they’ll probably feel a little groggy.
4. REM sleep
The final stage of sleep is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It’s so named because of the way your eyes move rapidly back and forth beneath your eyelids. This is the sleep stage when you’re most likely to dream, and your arms and legs become paralyzed to prevent you from acting out your dreams. REM sleep typically makes up 20 to 25% of your total sleep.
Sweet dreams are made of this
Your dreams, whether sweet or otherwise, might help you process your emotions. Scientists are unsure whether dreams are totally random or if they are a tool that helps your brain sort your memories into what’s important and what’s not. Some studies show that the more REM sleep (the dreaming stage) you get, the less afraid you are when experiencing a traumatic event the following day.
Basically, dreams have a variety of possible functions, but no one knows for sure why we dream. If you’re into Freud, you’re probably rolling your eyes right now and muttering under your breath about Oedipus complexes and teeth falling out. Otherwise, you’re probably just as confused by your dreams as I am by mine.
Here’s a tidbit you probably didn’t know: some people dream only in black and white. It’s a mystery why this occurs, but some scientists believe it’s correlated to black and white media consumption. If you’re a black and white dreamer, please leave a comment…because I got questions.
The #1 factor that decreases REM sleep
Since REM sleep is the final stage of the sleep cycle, you won’t be able to reach it if your sleep is disturbed in some way. One example is having a mosquito buzzing in your ear, which may not be something you’ve experienced recently but I assure you is incredibly annoying. Once the mosquito wakes you up, you start back at the initial stage of sleep and have to work your way back to REM sleep.
The habit that’s most likely to steal your REM sleep is drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol is quite disruptive to your sleep cycle, delaying REM sleep and often necessitating multiple bathroom visits in a single night. If you find that you’re not getting enough REM sleep, you may need to reduce your alcohol intake or at least stop drinking earlier in the evening.
How much deep sleep do you need?
Since deep sleep is the most critical stage of sleep, you might be wondering how much deep sleep you should get each night. On average, people spend 13 to 23 percent of their time asleep in deep sleep. If you sleep for 8 hours, that’s about an hour or two.
Does it seem like you’re not getting enough deep sleep? The best way to increase deep sleep is to sleep more overall. Because deep sleep occurs for a limited time during each sleep cycle, you need more sleep cycles to rack up more deep sleep.
If you’re unsure how much deep sleep you’re getting, consider investing in a sleep tracker like Oura Ring. A tool like this measures your deep sleep quality, duration, and sleep stages.
Perhaps you’ll find out you’re consistently not getting sufficient deep sleep. In that case, it’s time to give Hapbee a try. This unique wearable helps you sleep without requiring sleeping pills or other sleep aids. Users also report higher sleep scores after using Hapbee.
Some people (I’m looking at you, Millennials and Gen Zs) have a different way of evaluating whether they’re getting enough sleep. They think, “It doesn’t matter how much sleep I get during the week as long as I make up for it on the weekends.” This line of thinking shows a great misunderstanding of sleep debt.
Okay, if you don’t get enough sleep for one night, it’s not a big deal. You can make up for it by going to bed earlier the next night. But if you’re chronically losing sleep, it’s not that simple. Research has found that it takes four hours to recover fully from one hour of lost sleep. That means if you’re losing sleep every night and trying to catch up on weekends, you’re building up a sleep debt that you might never be able to repay.
The best way to let go of your sleep debt is to change your sleeping habits and – you guessed it – get enough sleep every night. You can do this by keeping your electronics in a separate room, avoiding caffeine and exercise at night, and gradually shifting your bedtime in increments of 15 minutes each night until you reach your ideal bedtime.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, give Hapbee’s Sleepy signal a try. You won’t have any of the side effects that come with regularly taking sleeping pills or other sleep aids…and you’ll be able to wake up refreshed and ready to face the new day.