An estimated 30 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Every night, over 40 million people find themselves tossing, turning, and staring at the ceiling, wondering how to get more deep sleep.
If that sounds like you, you’re not alone.
This growing epidemic shouldn’t be taken lightly. Most people aren’t aware of the harm of sleep deprivation, like increased risk of obesity and depression.
With more sleep research being published, more people are understanding the hazards of poor sleep and taking action to fix their lives.
The Harm of Sleep Deprivation
Why worry about how to get deep sleep? Well, sleep deprivation can lead to a whole slew of harmful effects.
If you feel like you’re not getting very deep sleep, take a look at some of the risks listed below. They may convince you it’s finally time to get some proper shut-eye.
- Impaired Brain Function
Poor-quality sleep can lead to difficulty paying attention and making decisions. You might also experience memory trouble, since long-term memory storage happens during sleep. 1Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance
Poor sleep can also result in effects similar to alcoholic intoxication. These include decreased mental function and motor control. 2Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication.
- Poor Emotional Processing
Poor sleep can lead to trouble with processing your emotions. For example, mood swings can occur due to suppression of emotional regulation 4Shortened night sleep impairs facial responsiveness to emotional stimuli.
Beyond that, people who can’t sleep well might experience decreased empathy. 5The effects of sleep deprivation on emotional empathy. This may be partially caused by a decrease in the ability to recognize emotions in other people’s faces. 6Sleep deprivation impairs the accurate recognition of human emotions.
- Faster Aging
Missing out on deep sleep can harm carbohydrate metabolism and hormonal functions. These kind of effects are usually the result of declining health with old age.
This suggests that poor sleep may result in faster aging.7Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function.
- Weaker Immune System
Sleep deprivation may make it easier to get sick. Studies have linked low-quality sleep with immune system suppression.8Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans.9Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold.
This can also lead to increased inflammation in the body.10Sleep, immunity and inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders
- Weight Gain
A lot of research has shown a link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. Poor sleep correlates with a risk of future obesity and current weight gain.11Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review.12Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults
These issues may be linked to an increase in appetite caused by poor sleep.13Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index
- Diabetes Risk
Research has shown a link between prolonged sleep deprivation and type 2 diabetes.14Prolonged Sleep Restriction Affects Glucose Metabolism in Healthy Young Men People who don’t sleep well may have an increased risk of developing this condition.
- Worse Athletic Performance
Getting deep, quality sleep can lead to better athletic performance. Missing out on that sleep can lead to poor performance.15The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players. Studies on sleep deprivation also show a decrease in elderly subjects’ physical abilities.16Poor sleep is associated with poorer physical performance and greater functional limitations in older women.
This suggests that restful sleep may help with staying faster, stronger, and fitter.
How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?
We’ve listed a few of the harmful effects of poor sleep. To avoid these, you need to get enough high-quality sleep for your body to function properly.
The National Sleep Foundation 17National Sleep Foundation’s sleep quality recommendations: first report recommends that most teenagers and adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. However, this can vary a little bit.
(There are some fringe cases, like the tiny percentage of people who only need about 6 hours of sleep. Don’t try this, though—only about 1 in 100 people can function properly on so little sleep.)
If you’re getting enough deep sleep to feel productive and happy, you don’t have to worry too much. Chances are you’re falling into that 7-9 hour range.
However, if you’re getting low-quality sleep, even 7-9 hours can feel like much less.
So most people need 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep. But that still begs the question—what is high-quality sleep?
Here are a few key factors as presented by the National Sleep Foundation.18National Sleep Foundation’s sleep quality recommendations: first report
When you’re lying in bed, the percentage of time that you actually spend sleeping is called sleep efficiency.
Experts say you should be asleep at least 85% of the time you spend lying in bed. That means you should have a sleep efficiency rating of 85% or higher.
For example, if you get in bed at 10:00 PM and get up at 7:00 AM, it’s best to have slept at least 7 hours and 4 minutes.
If you can’t fall asleep at night, get restless sleep, or are waking up tired after 8 hours of sleep, you may have poor sleep efficiency. If that’s the case, either keep reading or skip down to tips on how to get better deep sleep.
Time to Fall Asleep
How long does it take to fall asleep? For a healthy sleeper, it shouldn’t take very long.
Once you’re in bed, you should be asleep within 30 minutes. That means if you tuck yourself in at 10:00 PM, you should be catching Zs by 10:30 PM.
If you’re not tired at night and can’t figure out how to make yourself tired, you may find that counting sheep to sleep isn’t enough. You can keep reading or skip down to tips on how to fall asleep faster.
Once you fall asleep, experts say you shouldn’t wake up more than once per night. And if you do wake up at night, you should be able to fall asleep fairly quickly.
Being awake for more than 20 minutes after initially falling asleep is a sign of poor sleep.
If you can’t figure out how to go to sleep and not wake up, you’ll find some helpful information below. We’ve listed 12 tips to fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
How to Fall Asleep Faster
If you’re tired all day but can’t sleep at night, some of the advice below might help you catch some shut-eye.
However, if you’re simply not tired at night, it may be a little trickier. You can’t learn how to “trick” yourself into falling asleep, but there are steps you can take to help.
Here are some tips, tricks, and tools to help you fall asleep faster:
If you want to fall asleep faster, you need to go to bed at the right time.
When it’s time to sleep, your body starts to produce melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone. In ideal conditions, this process kicks in a few hours after the sun goes down.
This usually means your body is ready to go to sleep between 9:00 and 11:30 PM, with a little wiggle room.
If you ignore this window, your body can actually start to resist sleep as the effects of melatonin wear off.
If you’re someone who goes to bed really late thinking, “It takes me hours to fall asleep anyway,” that may be caused by ignoring your body’s bedtime window.
You may find that you’re still not sleepy when you should be. If that’s the case, you may want to assess your lighting.
The trigger for your body’s production of the sleepy hormone melatonin is a change in lighting. Basically, when your body notices that bright, cool light hasn’t hit your eyes in a while, it decides it’s probably time to sleep. Blue light tells your body to stay awake.
Before electric lights, the only source of cool, blue light was the sun. With the invention of the light bulb, humans had something other than warm, sleepy candles to light the night.
This problem was made worse with the invention of electronic screens. Of course, our computers, phones, and tablets have become a necessary part of life. But the blue light coming from their screens harms the body’s ability to fall asleep.
There are a few solutions for this.
The easiest step is to enable blue light filters on your electronics. Almost every modern Apple, Android, and Windows device features schedulable blue light filters.
If your device doesn’t have a filter in its settings, there is likely an app or program that will work.
The next option is a little more difficult but really rewarding.
Your home’s lighting can be a big blue-light offender. To fix this, smart lighting has been growing increasingly more common and inexpensive. Set a schedule, tap a button, or use your voice, and your lights can effortlessly turn warm and relaxing.
Philips Hue lights are one of the most popular options, but there are other excellent choices that are a little easier on the wallet. Yeelights are quite inexpensive and easy to set up.
Most smart lights also integrate with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, meaning you can use a Google Home or an Amazon Echo to control the lights with your voice. “Hey Google, lights out.”
Smart Lights for Sound Sleep
3. Melatonin Supplements
Your body may seem to refuse to produce that sleepy hormone despite your best efforts. If that’s the case, a short-term solution might be to take a melatonin supplement.
Melatonin supplements are really inexpensive and quite safe. The recommended dosage for teenagers and adults is typically 0.5 mg to 5 mg about 30 minutes before bed.
Although it’s a safe solution, you probably don’t want to take melatonin for more than a few weeks consecutively. Because your body will start to produce less melatonin naturally, it might make it difficult to sleep when you stop taking the supplement.
Taking too much melatonin at once can actually disrupt your sleep cycle and trigger symptoms of sleep deprivation, so it’s best to take no more than 5 mg.
There are a lot of different types of melatonin supplements. For more information, read our complete melatonin guide.
Many people say that turning on a fan or a white noise machine helps them sleep. It turns out that it’s not just in their heads.
The brain likes to focus on sharp changes in the environment. If you’re in a quiet room, pretty much any noise will be loud enough to catch your attention.
However, the steady sound of a fan or other noisemaker can help your mind ignore smaller sounds in the room.
A fan is a great option during much of the year, but you may not want the breeze during the winter. If that’s the case, you can use an app on your phone or a dedicated white noise device.
Drown Out Distractions
5. Pillow Sprays
Another sleep aid with growing popularity is pillow sprays. These sprays usually contain calming oils such as lavender, chamomile, and clary sage that are supposed to help you fall asleep faster.
There’s a lot of research that shows that different sleep sprays can help improve sleep quality. For more information, you can read our complete sleep spray guide.
Sleep Sprays for Sound Slumber
6. Weighted Blankets
One of the most comforting and relaxing tools you can use to get more restful sleep is a weighted blanket.
These snuggly duvets are filled with weighted pellets that make them heavier than your typical bed covering. Many people who use them say it’s like being wrapped in a calming, relaxing hug as you fall asleep.
Weighted blankets are really growing in popularity, but they can be a little spendy. They may be a good option if you have a bigger budget or are just desperate to fall asleep faster or get deeper sleep.
Keep Cozy with Weighted Blankets
How to Get Better Deep Sleep
So you’ve fallen asleep—hopefully. But no matter how quickly you fall asleep, if you can’t get solid, restful sleep, you’ll still feel tired.
If you’re still tired after sleeping 8 hours or you’re waking up tired no matter how much you sleep, it’s time to assess whether you’re sleeping deeply.
If you think you’re experiencing restless sleep, take some time to record your sleep habits. Keep a notebook at your bedside and jot down the times you get in and out of bed.
If you find yourself awake at night, glance at the clock every once in a while and take a mental note of the time. When you get up in the morning, record when you were awake at night.
As discussed above, experts say you should:
- Be asleep for at least 85% of the time you’re in bed
- Sleep for a total of 7 to 9 hours
- Try to avoid waking up more than once at night
With the above goals in mind, check out these tips on how to stay asleep deeply.
1. Sleep Masks
Blocking out all light while sleeping can actually help push you into deeper sleep.
Earlier we talked about how your body produces melatonin when it thinks it’s time to sleep. Well, your body produces even more while you’re asleep, provided the conditions are right.
Blocking all light from hitting your eyes and eyelids encourages the body’s production of melatonin while sleeping—meaning you’ll sleep deeper.
To help with this, you’ll want a face mask that properly covers your eyes. It’s best to get one with a little bit of cushion and a cutout for you nose.
The specifics of the material don’t matter too much, so just choose whatever will be comfortable for you. Silk, velvet, and fleece are popular options.
If you have any pillow spray or essential oils, you may sleep even better after applying a spritz to your sleep mask.
Comfy Sleep Masks
For more information, read our complete sleep mask guide.
Noise at night can be a huge interruption to restful sleep.
Everyone has different thresholds, but sometimes even tiny little noises can cause you to stir. Whether you fully wake up or just roll over and grunt, avoiding these disturbances can keep you from waking up tired.
Earplugs are the easiest way to block out noisy disturbances at night. Since the nighttime isn’t usually horribly noisey, you probably want to focus on comfort over sound blockage.
Memory foam earplugs are the most common, but some people prefer the ease of rubber plugs. Pick what’s right for you!
For more information, read our complete sleep earplugs guide.
Some people want the quiet peace brought by earplugs but can’t find a pair that’s comfortable for them. If you’re in this boat, sleep earmuffs might be a good option for you.
Although they usually won’t block as much sound as earplugs, they’re really comfortable.
Even better, some sleep earmuffs are designed to cover your eyes as well! Blocking out all light is really important for your sleep, so these are a no-brainer for certain sleepless souls.
For more information, read our complete sleep earmuffs guide.
If you’re the sedentary type, you might find that adding a little exercise to your daily routine can help with sleeping longer and deeper.
It’s important to note that some pushups on a single day probably won’t help. For exercise to improve your sleep, it’s best to stick to a routine.
If you’re not sure where to start, a 10-30 minute jog 3-5 days a week is a great place. If you’re not the running type, you might want to look into yoga or weightlifting.
Whatever your choice, your body will thank you for it!
Believe it or not, the foods that you eat can have an impact on your sleep.
For one, it’s best avoid added sugars, particularly close to bedtime. That extra boost of energy from that extra scoop of ice cream may be the reason you’re stuck counting sheep.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you have dietary issues that cause physical discomfort, correcting those can help deliver deeper sleep. So if you have heartburn, it’s probably best to pass on that last slice of pizza right before bed.
If you’re the type who prefers to give the thermostat some time off to save a few bucks, you might be impacting your sleep. Very warm and very cold temperatures can actually impair the body’s ability to sleep deeply.
To get more restful, deep sleep, it’s best if your room temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees. Your body temperature actually decreases when it’s time to fall asleep.
Setting the ambient temperature a little cooler will help this process out. Stray too high or too low and you might find yourself tossing and turning.
If you’re having trouble staying cool at night, you may want to look at cooling blankets and bedding solutions.