Sleep is probably one of the most underused tools we have in staying healthy. When most of us think about making healthy changes, we think to prioritize our diets, get more exercise, focus on being more organized, or spring cleaning our homes. However, we should really look at our sleep habits. The hours of sleep you get each night, your REM sleep and non-REM sleep, which sleep stages you reach, your sleep schedule, how much deep sleep you get, and your sleeping time all come into play.
Most of us can accept and admit that we don’t get enough sleep, but what are we doing to get more sleep or improve the quality of our sleep? Prioritizing our sleep and its quality is a step we can take to make ourselves feel better.
When thinking about getting better sleep, it’s important to understand quality sleep. What are the benefits of deep sleep? How can we ensure we’re getting enough deep sleep? And, what can we do to make a good night’s sleep a good habit?
Importance of Deep Sleep
When you think of deep sleep, you probably think of being sound asleep, and that’s exactly right. Deep sleep is the period of sleep when your brain waves are at their slowest (like slow-wave sleep). All phases of your sleep cycles are designed to help various parts of your body recover from the day, decrease fatigue, strengthen your immune system, regulate toxins, and recharge.
Since our brains are in charge of all of our body’s processes, it’s busy for most of the sleep cycles. Our brains regulate our body temperature, heartbeat and heart rate, hormone releases (like melatonin production), and more during sleep. As you can imagine, it’s hard for a brain to catch a break and get a bit of rest for itself. That’s why deep sleep is so key.
Deep sleep allows your neocortical neurons a period of time to rest. Your neocortex is the part of your brain that does all your higher cognitive thinking. It’s the part of our brains that makes us smarter than our species used to be, so maybe that’s why, when we aren’t getting enough sleep, we feel like we can’t think.
If you’ve ever had brain fog or lacked the ability to think clearly after an all-nighter, sleepwalking, or night terrors, you know exactly what a lack of deep sleep feels like. To avoid this and give your brain the rest it deserves, it’s important to set yourself up for a successful night’s sleep so you can get the amount of deep sleep you need.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Successful sleep isn’t just the sleep of the lucky. Successful sleep is when you fall asleep rather easily, remain asleep for the night, cycle through all the stages of sleep, don’t have any sleep disorders or issues, and wake up feeling refreshed and rested. If successful sleep sounds a bit like an urban legend to you, it may be time to focus your efforts on improving your sleep.
You can try these quick tricks:
- Avoid blue light, electronic devices, and screen time at night
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed
- Limit exposure to stimulants like nicotine and caffeine
- Learn about the different REM stages
One of the first things you can do to improve your sleep starts when you wake up. That may sound counterintuitive, but adding a bit of sunlight to your morning can promote healthy circadian rhythms. This small signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake will benefit you greatly at the end of the day when it’s time to fall asleep.
Promote Deep Sleep
After your morning sunlight is part of your day, there are other steps you can take to improve your sleep health. When you take care of your body in one area, chances are you’ll take care of your body in another area. Sleep is one of those areas that goes hand in hand with other areas, so what can you do?
1. Exercise Daily
If you’re tired from not getting deep sleep, you probably could laugh at the idea of having the energy to exercise if it’s not already part of your daily life. However, exercise is funny that way. Like the saying, “To make money, you have to spend money.” Sometimes, to have more energy you have to use your energy. Regular exercise has shown that it contributes to better sleep and helping your tissues repair.
One sweat session won’t cut it though. It needs to be part of your regular life, and it’s recommended for most adults to get about 150-180 minutes of exercise each week. 30 minutes of your day on most days devoted to exercise is all you need to reap the health benefits of exercise, and your sleep will thank you too.
2. Proper Diet
A healthy diet helps your body, but like exercise, a healthy diet can help you sleep too. For example, eating complex carbohydrates before bed can help signal to your brain that it’s time for sleep by triggering the release of serotonin.
To encourage better sleep, you could also limit foods that trigger the release of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine can stimulate the brain. Foods that do this are aged or processed cheese and deli meats like salami and pepperoni.
Foods that cause heartburn or indigestion for you may also keep you awake and affect your total sleep time. To protect your slumber, limit your consumption of these foods in the evening.
The meditative properties of yoga make it an ideal exercise before bed to help you relax your muscles and your mind in preparation for sleep. There are all sorts of yoga routines for sleep available online, but it may help to just memorize a few moves for your nightly routine.
4. Time Your Caffeine Right
Caffeine is the most widely used substance in the world that affects the brain. Most of us have a caffeinated beverage every morning, and a lot of people enjoy caffeine throughout the day as well.
This is not an attempt to tell you to eliminate caffeine from your life. Honestly, who needs that kind of negativity? However, when you enjoy your caffeine is something to think about if you want to ensure you also enjoy a night of deep, restorative sleep.
Everyone’s different with what they can tolerate, but try avoiding caffeine after a certain time in the afternoon, like after 2:30 or 4 p.m. depending on your tolerance. Allowing your body time to process the caffeine out of your system before sleep will help in your efforts to fall asleep and stay asleep.
5. Formulate a Bedtime Routine
A routine is good for telling your mind and your body what they’re expected to do. Following a bedtime routine every night before bed will set you up for successful sleep. Some good habits for a nightly routine could include a warm bath, a complex carbohydrate snack, turning off screens, reading a book, and taking a nightly supplement or a hot cup of relaxing tea.
6. Create a Safe Space for Sleep
Maintaining an area that signals to your brain that the space is for sleep will help you transition from being awake to asleep more easily. Your safe space for sleep should include a dark room. Light is the signal our brains use to tell us it’s time to wake up. Turning off the lights, slowing your eye movements (stick to non-rapid eye movement), shutting down screens, and keeping the room dark will all tell your brain that it’s nighttime and time for rest.
Another addition to your safe space for sleep to consider is a white noise machine. Sometimes our schedules and our environments make it hard to rest. A white noise machine or even keeping a fan on can help drown out the distractions and help you rest more soundly.
Lastly, your safe space should be kept at an ideal temperature for sleep. It’s recommended that you keep the room you sleep in at a temperature in the sixties. The proper temperature setting can help improve your sleep quality, and it helps you get a more comfortable sleep.
Consider your safe space and the changes you could make to improve your sleep quality.
7. Supplement Your Sleep
Sometimes we all need a little help. You can have the best sleep routine, avoid all the right foods, have the quietest and darkest sleep sanctuary, and turn off the TV and put down the caffeine within plenty of time, and you still might struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep.
When all else fails, get help. Thankfully, there are supplements that can aid your efforts to get more deep sleep at night in a natural way. Complete Calm Sleep Gummies can be taken 30 minutes to an hour before you’re ready to fall asleep. The terpene blend and other ingredients will help you start to feel calmer and more relaxed quickly, but after the natural ingredients process, as you sleep, you wake up feeling refreshed.
Melatonin is a very popular supplement for sleep. Our bodies naturally release the hormone melatonin, but as we age, we produce less of it. That’s one of the reasons so many people turn to it in their hour of need. However, some people prefer to not incorporate this hormone. Thankfully Complete Calm Sleep Gummies offer a formula with melatonin and one without to suit your needs.
Deep sleep is an important part of having restorative and restful sleep. We feel our best when we get enough deep sleep because it is the cycle of sleep that lets our minds rest the most. There are many steps we can take to ensure that we fall asleep quickly and stay asleep to allow our bodies the opportunity to cycle into deep sleep often enough.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.
Dominick Gauthier, Performance Expert
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)