Sleep is critical for fat loss, energy levels, immune function and overall health. Those who have spent some time on my blog will know how important sleep is to my health and my clients. As a result, I have written extensively on the topic (see all my articles HERE), including my book The Ultimate Guide To Deeper Sleep and I even have a course dedicated to helping people sleep.
But what about deep sleep? What if you've picked all the low hanging fruit when it comes to sleep optimization, but you're still waking up feeling tired in the morning, or perhaps your OURA ring or Fitbit shows a low deep-sleep score.
What can you do to increase your deep sleep?
If you're time poor, I have put together a quick one-page cheat sheet guide with all the key takeaways from this article. You can download it by clicking HERE.
This is actually a question I often get asked, so I decided to write this article on how to increase deep sleep, but first...
The scientific name for deep sleep is slow-wave sleep or SWS for short. SWS is part of the non-rapid eye movement sleep cycle during which the frequency of the brains waves slows.
This brain wave frequency in a deep sleep state is around 0.5 Hz to 2.0 Hz and the waves generated at this frequency are called delta waves.
In comparison, during the day the brain produces brain waves at a much higher frequency in the beta range.
The brain moves through various stages of sleep during the night, with more time spent in slow-wave delta sleep each cycle during the first half of the night. Levels of rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) increase in duration the second half of the night.
When we are in deep sleep, the body has a high state of arousal threshold, meaning you are less prone to awakening. Eye movement ceases and other than life-critical functions, the body is a state of physical paralysis. Waking up in this stage of sleep is difficult, and if we do wake up we're in an extremely groggy state.
Many people believe we dream in deep sleep, but we do little dreaming while in deep sleep. In regards to tracking levels of deep sleep, the most accurate method is with an EEG machine (electroencephalography machine). Though, measuring this way is impractical for most.
The next best way to track how much deep sleep you are getting and when you reach these states is with an Oura sleep wearable. Knowing how much (or how little) deep sleep you get each night is important if you are seeking optimal sleep or wanting to test which of the below tips work for you.
Why is deep sleep so important?
Anyone who has experienced a night of restless sleep, even if it was a full eight hours in bed, knows how you don't feel as rested or energized as you would after a night of deep sleep.
This is because the body does a lot of its deep recovery and repair while in deep sleep.
Growth hormone is also released in high amounts during this phase as well. Growth hormone regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system while in this slow wave sleep state.
Also, SWS is when your brain consolidates memory, helping with learning and cognitive function.
Missing out on SWS not only impacts memory, learning, immune function and physical recovery, but research is showing that lack of deep sleep contributes to reduced insulin sensitivity, psychiatric disorders and insomnia.
Deep sleep, in a nutshell, is needed for rest and restorative—both on a physical and mental front. Without deep sleep, you're not reaping the essential benefits of sleep. Plus you wake up feeling tired in the morning.
How much deep sleep is needed? Typically, deep sleep makes up around 0–35% of your total sleep time. Most adults spend 10–25% of their sleep in deep sleep.
The percentage varies based on your activity during the day, your diet, your health and how well you slept the night before.
I have my clients use an Oura ring and I like them to have at least 15% deep sleep in but ideally 20%.
Enough about deep sleep, now for the practical tips to help you increase your deep sleep!
There is no point trying to increase your deep sleep with various supplements or biohacks if your sleep hygiene isn't solid.
What do I mean by 'sleep basics'? Things like building a sleep routine, fixing your sleep environment, prioritizing your sleep, adhering to light cycles and eating a healthy diet.
Ensuring you follow these things on a consistent basis is going to have the best-bang-for-your-buck when it comes to increasing your deep sleep. If you need some ideas for how to improve your sleep hygiene, I cover them all in my free 'Sleep Tips' series here.
Even with a solid nighttime routine, the perfect diet and all the fancy gizmos and supplements, if you are stressed prior to bed, say goodbye to your deep sleep.
Nighttime stress, pre-sleep, is associated with reduced SWS once asleep.
So don't think that falling asleep will simply wash away the stress, the damage has already been done.
If you are stressed before bed, you're negatively impacting your sleep quality. In fact, researchers have found that the expression of the delta waves is associated with low levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increased sympathetic nervous system activity (your fight-or-flight state).
Even if you don't 'feel' stressed, there are many causes to higher levels of cortisol. For example, blue light exposure can increase cortisol, poor gut function, chronic infections, exposure to nnEMF from Wi-Fi or cell phones, anxiety, pollutants and toxins from your bedroom or mattress, and even low-quality meal prior to bed can cause heightened cortisol in the body.
I like to think I live a healthy life. I live by the sea in a Wi-Fi-free zone. I wear BlueBlocker glasses. I have a nighttime routine. And I eat a nearly perfect diet. But I know if I go to bed in a stressed state my sleep takes a hit.
Using Swannie blue-light blocking glasses helps me lower cortisol and boost melatonin.
If you are serious about increasing your deep sleep, you must be serious about stress mitigation. It's really as simple as that.
And remember, there are many causes of stress!
Behind stress, high temperatures are my second biggest cause for low deep sleep.
In fact, I moved countries because I couldn't handle Sydney's hot and humid summer heat, though that wasn't my sole reason.
I'm not the only one who doesn't sleep as well when the temperature is high. Studies have found that the optimal room temperature for sleep is a cool 15.5–20 C (60–68F).
Your body starts dropping your temperature when it's time to sleep. If the temperature in the environment remains too high, it can signal to the body that it's not quite ready for bed.
Simply controlling the temperature of your environment isn't enough. The body itself needs to be cool. I don't want to hammer on about the importance of low stress, but I'm going to anyway. If you are stressed prior to bed, (even if it's from something as trivial as that presentation you need to do in the morning) this can be seen as a threat to the body. In turn, your body releases stress hormones and your body temperature rises.
One more reason why you need to destress for increased deep sleep!
Going back to cool temperatures for deep sleep, a report published in 'Cell Biology' concluded, 'Temperature appears to be a major regulator of human sleep duration and timing'. This was noted after researchers studied the sleep habits of various pre-industrial groups around the world (1).
My own correlation of high body temperature and low deep sleep is reinforced by these findings and after monitoring my clients' sleep data.
If it's not possible to cool your sleeping environment, or you don't like the idea of an air-conditioning unit running all night, then I highly recommend investing in a ChiliPad device.
(Click HERE to go to the Chilipad website (discount available on website) for both the Chilipad and the Ooler.
This unit pumps chilled water through a special blanket that sits on your mattress. I used one (Actually, I had two on my bed!) when I was living in Sydney and it was the best investment I made for increasing deep sleep.
For my video on the Chillpad and Ooler, check:
Cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, is a phytocannabinoid that is found in industrial hemp and marijuana, however, CBD does not contain the psychoactive ingredient THC.
It is expensive and not available in all countries—so be careful if traveling with it. However, it’s magical stuff if you can get your hands on it.
A number of studies are starting to come out showing CBD's effectiveness in improving sleep. And there have been two studies showing that CBD increases deep sleep and decreases deep sleep latency (meaning you get into deep sleep faster) (2, 3).
It's something you could consider trying as it is a completely natural sleep aid with no known toxic side effects.
Unfortunately for me, it's illegal in New Zealand. But I have used products such as CBDPure when overseas and had good results (use discount code ALEX to save).
I need to put a warning here:
** Phenibut is a very powerful, yet scary substance. It is very effective at reducing anxiety but is highly addictive. It should be used for short-term use only. It is currently listed as a nutritional supplement and is available over the counter without a prescription. **
If it's so addictive, why do I include it in this list? Because it really helps increase deep sleep.
Phenibut is structurally similar to the anti-convulsion drug gabapentin. Most anti-convulsion drugs have been shown to decrease SWS (5), but gabapentin was actually found to increase deep sleep.
Phenibut and gabapentin are also both GABA analogs (meaning they are similar to the brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid).
What does this mean? It means that phenibut binds with the GABA receptors and alpha-2-delta calcium channels in the brain causing deeper sleep states.
But please remember, there are many side effects to this 'nutritional supplement'. In fact, in higher doses, it works as a tranquilizer (4).
Despite being effective at increasing deep sleep, phenibut should only be used on an acute basis—if you are traveling for instance.
I use personally take one or two capsules of Primaforce phenibut when traveling.
Alternatively, you could also use Doc Parsley's Sleep Remedy which has a very small amount of phenibut in it. (Use discount code alexferguscoaching to save).
Remember, this should be saved for extreme one-off cases only. Do not take it if you are prone to addictions. Some experts believe that this should not be available over the counter. If you do develop an addiction to phenibut, please see this article on how to get off it.
Since I have moved back to New Zealand, I have been able to purchase kava. (Kava is banned in Australia). I have started experimenting with that prior to sleep.
At the time of writing this article, I have only tried one kava supplement, so I don't have much personal experience to report on. I did notice a mild calming effect, but I really want to get more potent kava extract before I make any personal conclusions on kava's effectiveness for boosting deep sleep.
From a literature point of view, kava has been shown to be effective at lowering anxiety and also increasing deep sleep in lab rats (6).
Human studies have shown similar benefits, with patients self-reporting decreased anxiety and increased sleep quality after using kava (13).
And from an anecdotal point of view, kava is commonly used as a relaxant and sleep aid around the world. Please note, that kava has caused liver failure in healthy individuals and shouldn't be used as a long-term sleep aid.
Save this one for those special occasions.
There are three vitamin deficiencies that must be addressed to boost your deep sleep.
They are vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin D3.
With a well-rounded diet including quality meats, broth, organic vegetables and liver you should not have any issues with vitamin A and B6.
And with plenty of sun exposure (without sunscreen) you should be okay in the vitamin D department.
However, I see a lot of lab tests from people who claim to eat well and get plenty of sun and their levels in these vital vitamins are low.
So, please test your own levels, rather than assuming you do or do not need supplements. I recommend LetsGetChecked for a great way to test your vitamin levels from your home.
Vitamin A plays a vital role in setting our circadian rhythm and helping with sleep. The best way to ensure you are not deficient in vitamin A is by eating organ meat such as liver once a week.
Alternatively, supplementing with vitamin A once or twice a week could help. I use Thorne Vitamin A twice a week taken in the morning with food if I don't get my weekly liver intake.
For more on Vitamin A's a role in sleep, please read THIS article.
Vitamin B6 is needed for melatonin synthesis. Vitamin B6 deficiency can cause less REM and slow wave sleep, sleep disturbances and poor production of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter vital for sleep.
If you are eating a vegetarian or plant-based diet you may be low in vitamin B6 in which case I would recommend taking a daily B-complex vitamin such as Thorne Basic B.
Vitamin D3 deficiencies have been linked to sleep disorders and can create problems with hormone production (7).
Also, vitamin D3 is required in the conversion of 5-HTP into serotonin which is then converted into melatonin.
Now, before you go out and start popping Vitamin D3 supplements, I recommend you test your D3 serum blood levels. Too much vitamin D3 in the body has been shown to impair sleep quality, and in particular, REM sleep.
I recommend using Vitamin D3 drops that include vitamin K2 to avoid calcification from excess vitamin D. The Thorne Vitamin D/K drops are a good product.
This is a no-brainer and falls under point one above.
If you are looking at how to increase the amount of deep sleep you get each night, consider avoiding caffeine during the day. If you must have caffeine, have it first thing the morning.
Caffeine has a long half-life. This means your body will still be processing the caffeine from that cup of coffee you had at 3 p.m. hours later that evening. Also, people metabolize caffeine at different rates.
I have done a genetic test and it confirmed what I always knew—I am a slow metabolizer of caffeine. For this reason, I need to be very particular around my caffeine use.
Finally, it's important to remember that foods like dark chocolate and beverages such as tea all have caffeine present in them. If you are in the habit of having dark chocolate for dessert each night, you may want to reconsider in case it is impacting your sleep.
If you are prone to having caffeine-rich foods or beverages late in the day, I recommend taking some L-Theanine. A 2012 study titled 'L-Theanine Partially Counteracts Caffeine-Induced Sleep Disturbances in Rats' found that L-theanine, when taken with caffeine, partially reversed the negative impact caffeine had on sleep, in particular, deep sleep (25).
A sluggish thyroid is not conducive to quality sleep (or quality health).
In fact, a fast metabolism (shown by a high morning body temperature) is going to help you sleep deeper at night.
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) is a major cause of low metabolism and is associated with disrupted sleep and less slow wave sleep.
In test subjects that had normal thyroid levels, or even higher than normal levels of thyroid, they had adequate levels of thyroid hormone to sustain an extended period of deep sleep(8).
A higher metabolic rate ensures a higher temperature during the day and higher carbon dioxide output.
When someone is in a hypothyroid state, their body's energy levels are much lower and the body has to call upon other mechanisms to ensure sufficient energy and heat production.
These mechanisms create a more stressful and inflammatory state in the body. A low morning temperature is one tell-tale sign of a sluggish metabolism, so is frequent urination during the night and restless sleep.
If you need help fixing a sluggish metabolism, please watch THIS presentation and or check out the Hormone Reset Program.
Acupuncture is used for many things, from improving digestion to speeding recovery. More importantly, it's also good for sleep.
Studies have shown acupuncture is effective for increasing sleep quality (9). It can increase melatonin production and total sleep time. Even better, acupuncture reduces anxiety, shortens the time it takes to fall asleep and lessens restlessness during the night (10).
The Earth Pulse is a pulsed electromagnetic field generator that sits under your bed at night. While I personally haven't used one since they're rather expensive, I have heard numerous anecdotal reports that these units are great for boosting deep sleep.
I have one client who uses an Earth Pulse every night and swears by it. I see his Oura sleep data every morning and I must admit that his sleep quality is consistently good.
The way the device works is by what's known as brain entrainment. The Earth Pulse emits very weak (less than 0.5 gauss/50 microteslas) pulsed electromagnetic fields (EMF fields) in the same frequency emitted by the earth. The manufacturers state that the unit can even help protect you from electromagnetic fields in higher frequencies—frequencies that can negatively impact sleep and health.
As I covered at the beginning of this article, deep sleep creates a particular brain frequency. The Earth Pulse is designed to help the brain reach these brain wave frequencies.
Again, I don't have any personal experience with this unit, but I know a lot of people do recommend it. For an extensive list on pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) science articles please see this page.
If you have the funds, it is something you could look into if you are serious about improving your deep sleep.
The light that is emitted from TV screens, iPhones and even light bulbs is extremely disruptive to your sleep. This light exposure increases cortisol production and decreases melatonin production.
Every time you look at a bright screen you effectively send a signal to the brain that the sun is up. If the sun is up then it's not time to sleep!
Worse, if there is artificial light present in your bedroom, studies have shown that this light can also impact your sleep quality. For more on this topic please see my article on Blue Light and Sleep here.
If you are going to use technology and bright light at night (who isn't?) then be sure to wear BlueBlocker glasses to filter out the blue light.
Pink noise is similar to white noise, but it has more low-frequency components than white noise.
A study published in March 2017 found that pink noise exposure boosts deep sleep and memory in adults (11). Acoustic enhancement of sleep has been well-researched over the years with promising results.
Another study concluded that "there is converging evidence that auditory stimulation is a good choice for enhancing slow waves, because it is safe, easily controllable, and can be administered non-obtrusively during sleep."(12)
In particular, these studies show a significant increase in the magnitude of slow waves—meaning better deep sleep.
However, there is a big caveat with acoustic or auditory stimulation for sleep. For it to be effective you need to time the stimulation as your brain enters into deep sleep.
If the timing is off, the sounds can actually induce arousals and disrupt sleep. So though the evidence is clear that this technology does help increase deep sleep, at the moment it's only effective if you're wired up in a sleep lab.
Perhaps, in the not too distant future, there will be an app that will sync to your Oura ring and be able to read what stage of sleep you are in and react accordingly.
Valerian root, or Valeriana officinalis, is one of the most common supplements to be recommended if someone has sleep issues.
Like kava, there is solid anecdotal evidence supporting its efficacy. A meta-analysis on valerian root concluded that valerian root was beneficial for those suffering from insomnia but also stated that more research was needed (14).
It has also been shown to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep in men (15).
But what about deep sleep? In rats, dosages of 200 mg/kg showed increased time spent in NREM (deep sleep) (16). Though that dosage amount is rather high!
A long-term adult study found that valerian root not only decreased the time it took participants to get into deep sleep but they also had more deep sleep during the night compared to the control group (17). However, the short-term impact was negligible.
This suggests that valerian root can help boost deep sleep if used on a regular ongoing basis, but it wouldn't be very useful for acute use (e.g., for jet lag).
I like making a tea with Organic Root by Frontier Natural.
If you suffer from sleep apnea you are going to miss out on a lot of deep sleep during the night. Patients with sleep apnea sustain temporary stoppages of breath during sleep thereby leading to intermittent hypoxia, inflammation and sympathetic activation (i.e., activating your fight-or-flight stress response which is not a great thing when you're trying to sleep!)
Unfortunately, many people do suffer from sleep apnea without even knowing it. I have worked with clients over the years who never knew they had sleep apnea issues until I started tracking their sleep data from Oura.
Sleep apnea causes a lot of restless sleep and too little deep sleep as the body is starved for oxygen for brief periods of time during the night.
When this happens, their body jolts them awake gasping for air. Then they drift back to sleep again. Often though, the individual is completely unaware of this.
If you look at the sleep data below, you can see a common pattern of someone who is not getting quality deep sleep. Instead, they have been pulled awake every time their body goes into deep sleep.
Oura ring data is useful for seeing what your sleep patterns look like during the night, but the best way to test for sleep apnea is at a sleep laboratory.
Yes, I am being serious.
Taping your lips shut when you go to bed can help you sleep deeper. At least that's what I have found from my own and my clients' sleep experiments. By using the SomniFix Strips at night, you force the body to breathe through the nose.
Ideally, we should always breathe through the nose when sleeping, but some of us can develop a bad habit of mouth breathing while asleep. If you often wake with a dry mouth or dry lips, try mouth taping your lips next time you go to bed.
Be sure to use a hypo-allergenic tape. If you don't like the idea of taping your mouth shut (yet you still want to restrict mouth breathing), have a look at the product called SomniFix Strips. This is a purposely designed strip to help you breathe through your nose with built-in safety features.
For more information on mouth breathing and lip taping please read this article.
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is a form of brain stimulation that uses low current delivered to specific areas of the brain using electrodes.
Yes, you are putting electricity through your brain!
But if you're seeking more deep sleep, it is worth looking into.
A 2006 study on tDCS applied at 0.75 Hz for five-minute intervals separated by one-minute off periods after deep sleep onset and found an increase in slow-wave sleep output, improving memory consolidation (18).
A similar technology using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) demonstrated that slow brainwaves can be triggered through a brief application of a TMS pulse (19).
Though effective at boosting SWS, this technology is rather cumbersome, and their long term safety is still unknown. But if you are serious about biohacking, I'm sure you can volunteer as a guinea pig at your local university!
This is a simple, but effective way to increase your deep-sleep levels. In a 2014 study, participants listened to an auditory text with hypnotic suggestions or a control tape before napping for 90 minutes.
The researchers found those who listened to the tape (telling them to 'sleep deeper') had 81% more deep sleep than the control group! And time awake was reduced by 67%.
The recording helped them sleep deeper and sleep more.
The tape they listened to was a 13-minute recording that provided a hypnotic suggestion (e.g., a metaphor of a fish swimming deeper and deeper into the water). The hypnotic text was spoken in a soft, slow, hypnotic, calming voice, frequently containing relaxing words such as 'deep', 'easily', 'relax' and 'let go'.
This is actually pretty neat as there are various apps on the market that offer soothing voices and phrases to lull you to sleep. It does need to be noted that this study only looked at 90-minute naps, not a full night's sleep.
As nasty as this may sound, parasites (such as intestinal worms) are a common cause behind restless sleep and chronic waking during the night.
These parasites are most active during the night and this can cause sleep disruption and low levels of deep sleep.
If you think this might be a problem for you, speak to your general practitioner doctor (or even a functional medicine doctor) who may order a stool test to check for parasites.
Having an orgasm can have an extremely sedative effect for some people.
If you are one of these people then don't worry about all the other recommendations in this article, just have sex before you want to sleep.
When we have sex the body releases a bunch of chemicals including oxytocin, serotonin, vasopressin and prolactin. These all can help us sleep in various ways.
Oxytocin counters cortisol and has a calming effect on the body which is perfect to help us drift off into a deep slumber. Serotonin can help us maintain regular sleep and wake cycles since a stable circadian rhythm is crucial for solid sleep. Vasopressin also decreases cortisol and helps improve sleep quality. Finally, prolactin levels are naturally higher when we sleep.
After sex, our body's levels of prolactin are boosted for more than an hour. What better way to kick-start your sleep than with a big surge of post-sex prolactin!
A healthy gut is vital for deep sleep. This may surprise you but your gut microbiome creates more neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, GABA, etc.) than your brain.
Think about this for a moment. If your gut health is not at 100%, these neurotransmitters may not be produced in significant quantity—affecting your mood, health and sleep.
Even melatonin, which is primarily released by the pineal gland, can also be produced by the gut (20).
If you have any form of gut dysbiosis (overgrowth or over dominance of bad bacteria) or other gut issues, you are going to have problems producing these vital neurotransmitters.
Not only that, studies have linked various gut issues with poor sleep, such as:
—Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) negatively impacting sleep quality at night (21) and lowering deep-sleep levels (22)
—Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is linked to lower-quality sleep (23)
More evidence is also coming out showing that the gut microbiome plays a big role in establishing our circadian rhythms. Fixing and stabilizing your circadian rhythm is one of the most effective ways to boost your sleep quality.
Studies show that the gut has its own daily rhythms and these impact the body's sleep/wake cycles (24).
Of course, when we eat and what we eat can impact these gut microbiome rhythms which in turn impacts our sleep.
By eating poorly, or eating at irregular times, it literally sends mixed messages to the gut.
If you are serious about optimizing your sleep and increasing your deep sleep quality, eat a healthy diet, care for your gut and eat at regular times.
In my health coaching program, I utilize all three of these protocols with my clients. You can find out more about this here. Also consider taking the Seed Daily Synbiotic to nourish your gut microbiome.
Experts estimate that up to 80% of the American population is deficient in magnesium.
This is alarming as magnesium is critical for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. We need it for making energy, for biological actions and for lowering the stress load on the body.
But more importantly, a study titled "Effects of Trace Element Nutrition on Sleep Patterns in Adult Women" found that a diet rich in magnesium was associated with deeper, uninterrupted sleep.
Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds and mackerel. But given that so many people are deficient in magnesium, I like to boost levels with a quality supplement such as Life Extensions Neuro-Mag.
For more on magnesium please see my article Why You Should Be Supplementing With Magnesium.
This is my personal downfall when it comes to low deep-sleep levels. Stress is typically the biggy, but I'm usually good at controlling that. Eating big meals late at night is a more common problem for me.
Whenever I eat a big meal after 7:30 p.m. at night (I go to sleep around 9:30 p.m.), my deep sleep score, as shown by my Oura ring (read my review HERE), is always low.
Here's a quick story for you. I once experimented with once-a-day eating. Each meal was consumed at dinnertime. Of course, my body was crying out for food come mealtime and I would gorge on a few thousand calories in the space of an hour. Seriously, I tracked my food in MyFitnessPal showing some days I would consume over 3000 calories in one hour!
I would head off to bed an hour or two later and would have some serious acid reflux, not to mention broken sleep and low deep-sleep scores.
We already looked at how acid reflux can impact deep sleep, but big meals aren't the only trigger. Spicy and acidic foods can also ruin deep sleep due to heartburn. Lying down makes these issues worse, so having a spicy or acidic meal close to bedtime is not ideal for deep sleep.
Another problem with eating close to bedtime is the possible blood sugar crash. If you do eat an unbalanced meal (e.g., too high in carbs or protein), you can set yourself up for a case of rebound hypoglycemia.
What goes up, must come down. And a big blood-sugar spike can result in a big blood-sugar crash a few hours later.
If blood-sugar levels continue to fall without any incoming glucose, the body will release adrenaline and cortisol to support the dangerously low blood-sugar levels. This stress response is going to wake you up in the middle of the night (often leaving you struggling to get back to sleep).
Exercise is a stress. Stress disrupts your sleep. Late night exercise disrupts sleep.
Remember, every time you go to the gym to do sprints or lift heavy weights, you're introducing a stress load on the body. The harder you train, the bigger the stressor.
This is great if your recovery is adequate and you're seeking body composition or strength changes. But it's not great if this stress load occurs a few hours before bed.
We have already touched on the importance of de-stressing before bed. Doing spin classes or trying to break your heaviest deadlift record late in the evening is not a great way to de-stress.
Another problem with late training and deep sleep is the rise in core body temperature levels. It is normal to have a high body temperature one or two hours prior to sleep, but then the body starts to lower the temperature as you unwind and prepare for sleep. An elevated body temperature for a few hours post-training is not supportive of this.
Exercise is great, even beneficial for sleep, just don't do it late at night. I prefer my clients to do their training in the afternoon or early evening at least three hours before bed.
My final tip for increasing your deep sleep is simple—go to bed earlier.
You may have heard the phrase, "an hour before midnight is worth two hours after”. Though there is nothing magical that happens when the clock strikes midnight (sorry Cinderella fans), there is some truth to this saying.
The body prioritizes deep sleep in the first half of your sleep, in the second half you have less deep sleep and more REM sleep. A good sleep on an Oura ring will look something like this:
It turns out that there is some association between the timing of sleep onset and the number of deep sleep cycles. For instance, the early part of the night (from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.) is when the majority of the sleep cycles are comprised of deep sleep. Later on in the night (from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.), you tend to have more REM sleep.
Missing this first part of the night due to late night partying, television watching or working means that you're not going to get as big of an opportunity to get into a deep sleep. I am assuming that this has something to do with your circadian rhythm.
Sleep expert Matt Walker had this to say,
Therefore, someone who sleeps from 9p.m. to 5a.m. (8 hours total) will have a different overall composition of sleep—biased towards more non-REM—than someone who sleeps from 3a.m. to 11a.m. (also 8 hours total), who is likely to experience more REM. Indeed, if you afford yourself the luxury of sleeping in later during the weekends, you'll experience this phenomenon, with a greater likelihood of having more dreams due to the increased proportion of REM sleep.
Recently, I moved to a new house. I have been in the new house for over a week now, and despite my sleep environment not being perfect (our room lets a lot of street light in, I'm sleeping on an airbed while I wait for my $10,000 Samina healthy mattress to arrive, daylight saving time has kicked in disrupting my routine, and I'm in a new, unfamiliar house) still my deep sleep has improved big time!
You can see more in this video here.
Okay, so this is still a work in progress, but I wanted to update this article with my findings—in case others have noticed the same thing.
I'm currently in the process of doing a four-week experiment with the nootropic Qualia Mind. I'm only a week in, but I have noticed an epic surge in my deep sleep Oura ring scores.
How much of a surge?
Can you believe I'm getting three hours of deep sleep?
And look at that sleep structure—it's nearly textbook perfect. Short sleep latency, no wakeups during the night, most of the deep sleep in the first half followed by REM and light sleep in the second half.
Anyway, the trend has continued. Last night, for instance, I had 40% deep sleep! That's unheard of! (If you're getting more than 40% deep sleep on your Oura ring, please, please, please let me know what you're doing in the comments section below.)
The lowest deep sleep time I've had since starting Qualia Mind was 1 hour 36 minutes, and that was on an 'off-cycle day' (you take Qualia Mind five days a week then take two rest days).
I can't say for certain that Qualia Mind increases deep sleep. But I've noticed the change in my sleep since I started taking it (and my deep sleep was already really good!).
I'll be sharing my full Qualia Mind review in the coming weeks, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for updates.
If you want to try Qualia Mind just head to THIS site and use discount code FERGUS to save on the order. Then please share your Oura results with me and the other readers.
I'm really keen to see if others are having similar results with Qualia?
Okay, I can confirm, Qualia Mind has a massive impact on my deep sleep!
I cover my findings in detail in my article—Qualia Mind Review - Extraordinary Deep Sleep And Cognitive Benefits.
But in a nutshell here's what happened to my deep sleep after I took Qualia Mind:
|Before Qualia||After Qualia|
|Deep Sleep Time||1 hour 36min||2 hours 26min|
|Deep Sleep %||19.60%||32.50%|
After taking Qualia Mind (caffeine free) I added nearly an hour to my deep sleep time, and my percentage increased from under 20% to over 30%.
Not only that, but my sleep was very restorative during this time. I was rarely waking during the night (the odd time I was waking was due to my wife waking to care for our newborn baby or an outside noise like a wild possum screeching).
So yes, if you're happy spending some money, I highly recommend adding the caffeine-free version of Qualia Mind to your supplement protocol for increased deep sleep.
Be sure to use discount code FERGUS when ordering Qualia and report back with your own findings.
Check out my book - The Ultimate Guide to Deeper Sleep: 65 Research Backed Tips to Effectively Boost Your Deep Sleep
My 150 page ebook cost's not not much more than a price of a coffee (and I can assure you that the content in this book will allow you to give up your coffee habit!)
In my book The Ultimate Guide to Deeper Sleep, Bart Wolbers and I cover 65 scientifically proven ways you can increase your deep sleep quality.
This book is packed full of amazing takeaway tips, with simple action points for you to incorporate into your life.
You can learn more about this book HERE
There we go, plenty of tips and tricks to utilize! As I outlined at the beginning, these strategies are for those who have picked all the low hanging fruit when it comes to increasing sleep.
If you are looking FREE advice on how to increase sleep in general, be sure to sign up for my free 'Sleep Tips' by clicking HERE and if you are looking for a FREE one-page guide to help you sleep deeper, click HERE. Print this out and check it every evening to help you boost your deep sleep!
Alternatively, if you're looking to access all my sleep resources, including articles on jet lag, blue light, my routine, plus podcasts on sleep and even my recommended supplements for sleep then make sure you check out my 'Sleep Resources' page HERE.
Please keep me posted on whether these tips to increase deep sleep work for you by posting a comment below. Or if you have your own tips to increase deep sleep feel free to share them in the comments section.
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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