Sleep Week: How much deep sleep do you need?

Sleep Week: How much deep sleep do you need?

March 14, 2021

Author: Breanne DeMore

We all know we should be getting somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but most people still aren’t sure how much of each individual stage of sleep you should get. Specifically, how much deep sleep do you need?

Woman and her young daughter sleeping in bed.

What is Deep Sleep?

Before we dive into how much we need, let’s first clarify what exactly deep sleep is. There are four phases of the sleep cycle:

Phase 1

This is a very light sleep that is easy to wake up from. As the mind slows, there can be slight twitches in the body.

Phase 2

In this phase, you begin properly sleeping. Your breathing and heart rate begin to slow and your temperature starts to drop slightly as your muscles relax.

Phase 3

Also known as the healing phase or slow-wave sleep, this is deep sleep. It is much harder to wake up at this point and your brain starts to become much more active. Tissue growth and repair happen in this phase and cellular energy is restored. This phase of sleep is believed to be imperative for bodily recovery, growth, and the immune system.

Phase 4

REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement, is the 4th and final phase. Your mind is its most active—almost as active as when you are awake—yet your body is paralyzed. Atonia, temporary paralysis of your muscles, affects all your muscles with the exception of your eyes and the muscles that control breathing. REM sleep is important for your mind—creative thinking, learning, and memory all benefit from it.

Essentially, deep sleep is very important for your body and mind. It increases long-term and short-term memory, and aids in general learning. This stage of sleep is also when important hormones, such as the human growth hormone, are released, leading to benefits such as increased blood supply to muscles, growth, and repair of tissue and bones, and energy restoration.

How Much Deep Sleep Do Most People Get?

For the average sleeper, the sleep cycle is broken up as follows:

A graph of the sleep cycle

Most sleep cycles last about 75-90 minutes, which means that in a typical 7-8 hour night of sleep, a person would go through about 4 sleep cycles. Therefore, most people probably get around 1.5-2 hours of deep sleep.

So, How Much Deep Sleep Do You Need?

The good news is, if you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, you’re probably getting the correct amount of deep sleep. There is no specific requirement, but it appears that younger people need, and get, more deep sleep—between 1-2 hours.

The older among us get significantly less deep sleep than their younger counterpoints. A 30-year-old may get as much as 2 full hours of deep sleep, while people over 65 may get only 30 minutes, or sometimes none at all.

Older couple sleeping in bed.

How Can You Get More Deep Sleep?

It can be difficult to impact a specific sleep phase, but working on improving your overall sleep should help you to get more quality deep sleep. Additionally, some studies have shown that a very hard workout or rigorous exercise can increase deep sleep or help your body to consolidate it.

Other tips to overall improve your sleep include limiting caffeine intake in the second half of the day, creating a bedtime routine that signals to your mind and body that it is time to unwind, and try to stick to dimmer lighting in the hours leading up to your bedtime.

Woman reading in bed in a dim room.

Of course, none of this is helpful if you aren’t comfortable on your mattress or pillows. We have three different mattresses and two types of pillows to work for all types of sleepers.
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