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Deep Sleep: How Much You Should Get

Human beings need sleep in order to maintain healthy biological and emotional functions. Many adults do not get enough hours of sleep each night, and even more are unable to achieve the deep sleep needed to maintain ideal health and performance.

In order to understand how much deep sleep to get, individuals must first understand the process through which deep sleep occurs. Because people are different, they must also be able to reflect on their own habits and personal sleep needs.

Adults should generally aim to get between seven and nine total hours of sleep a night, however, deep sleep only makes up a fraction of that time and can be difficult to discern from the rest of the sleep stages. Despite this, there are ways through which individuals can be able to gauge the amount of deep sleep they get and the amount they need.

What is Deep Sleep?

Deep sleep is the state during which individuals are completely unaware of their surroundings and cannot be easily woken up. Sleep is made up of stages that repeat themselves throughout the night. These stages are, at their most basic, either “light” or “deep”. Although the duration of deep sleep is much shorter than the duration of light sleep, it makes all the difference in regards to health, mood, and energy levels.

Sleep is made up of four different stages. These stages are characterized by two different types of sleep, non-REM and REM.

  • Non-REM Sleep - The first three stages of sleep occur during non-REM sleep.
    • Stage 1 is during which the transition from wakefulness to sleep occurs.
    • Stage 2 is during which “light” sleep occurs.
    • Stage 3 is the first stage of deep sleep. 
  • REM Sleep - This is the fourth stage of sleep, during which dreams occur and individuals sleep their deepest.

The first three stages of sleep last from 5 to 15 minutes each. Before REM sleep is achieved, stages 2 and 3 are repeated backwards. The first time REM sleep occurs is not until around 90 minutes have elapsed since the beginning of sleep. The first time it occurs it lasts for only about ten minutes, increasing in duration as the body goes through the sleep cycle.

Some people have an easier time getting into REM sleep than others. It is important that individuals are able to sleep for solid portions of time with no distractions.  This is so that there are no disruptions to the sleep cycle, which would take it harder to achieve deep and REM sleep.

Why is Deep Sleep Important?

Although all the stages of sleep are important, deep sleep is during which the body is most able to repair itself and tend to biological needs.

  • The human growth hormone, which aids cell regeneration and function, is released during deep sleep. Interruption of the deep sleep stages directly impacts the discharge of this hormone, which is imperative to development and repair.
  • Deep sleep is also important for neurological health. During deep sleep, the brain reworks neurological passageways which allows better memory and information retention.
  • Without enough deep sleep, individuals are more susceptible to drowsiness, stress, and lack of focus in tending to daily activities.
  • Lack of deep sleep can weaken the immune system. In order to be able to fight pathogens and illness, the body needs a sufficient amount of deep sleep per night.

Additionally, periods of deep sleep signify the “end” of the sleep cycle. Waking up during or before a period of deep sleep can leave you feeling groggy and disoriented. It is not only important to reach the deep sleep stages, but also to complete them and get the most out of them.

How Much Deep Sleep to Get

While there are basic requirements to how much sleep and deep sleep individuals in different age groups should get, everybody is different. As aforementioned, some may need less sleep, while others may find they function best on an extra hour of sleep.

Despite this, adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Any less can cause sleep deprivation. Similarly, sleeping for more than 9 hours a night may decrease energy levels during the day. 

Generally, adults should get between 1 and 2 hours of deep sleep a night, or around 90 minutes. About 13 to 23% of sleep should be deep sleep, depending on the individual needs.

Assessing Individual Sleep Needs

In order to get the right amount of sleep, individuals must be more aware of their sleeping patterns and habits, as well as what works best for them. It can be hard to keep track of sleeping habits, here are a few tips:

  • Make Note of ‘Sleepiness’ - Throughout the day, try to be observant in regards to how sleepy or energetic you are. It can be helpful to keep a journal or diary in which you make note of how often you are tired and feel sleep-deprived.
  • Look for Signs - There are many different symptoms that signify sleep deprivation. These include constant drowsiness, hunger, lack of focus, and moodiness. If you experience these symptoms, reflect on the quality of sleep you have been getting and how it could have an impact.
  • Work on Sleep Habits - Make sure your environment is optimized for sleep and apply healthy habits and routines to ensure you get quality rest. Doing this will also help you become more aware of what helps you sleep and what doesn’t.
  • Turn Off Your Alarm Clock - If you can, try to wake up every morning without an alarm clock, for at least a short amount of time. Make note of what time your body naturally falls asleep and wakes up to gain a better understanding of your circadian rhythms.
  • See a Doctor - It is always best to consult your doctor when experiencing any trouble falling asleep. Your doctor may also be able to give you personalized advice on how to best cater to your sleep needs.

Once you have a better understanding of how much sleep you need, and how sleep impacts your mood and health, you can then establish routines and schedules to cater to those needs and get the most out of your time asleep.

Key Takeaways

  • Although adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night for optimal health, the amount of deep sleep they get, which only makes up a fraction of the total, is often unaccounted for.
  • Sleep is made up of four stages; stage three and four are the only ones during which deep sleep occurs, but are the hardest to achieve during the sleep cycle.
  • Deep sleep is very important for physical and neurological health; the body repairs itself most efficiently during deep sleep.
  • Although individuals have different sleep needs, generally, one to two hours of deep sleep are necessary every night to ensure quality and therefore beneficial sleep.
  • It is important for individuals to be observant of their sleep habits and patterns and assess their personal sleep needs to allow themselves adequate amounts of both light and deep sleep a night.