More than 50% of adults don’t get enough sleep on a daily basis.
The increasing demands of creating a positive work/life balance in today’s world leave very little time for rest and relaxation.
Thankfully, there are several strategies that you can use to improve the actual quality of the sleep that you’re already getting.
I personally struggled with insomnia for many years until I started using some of the strategies listed below.
Today we are going to give you the 7 best tips on how to get deep sleep naturally.
Welcome to the second installment of the WCT Sleep Series- where we teach you proven methods to get better sleep despite your busy schedule.
- In Part 1, 3 Surefire Ways To Fall Asleep Quickly and Get The Restful Sleep You Deserve we discuss the numerous benefits sleep has on your body and the real effects of sleep deprivation. We also cover the 3 most important tips to maximize your sleep.
We highly recommend that you read that post first.
In today’s post, we are going to cover:
- How to Optimize Your Bedroom To Make It Conducive to Sleep
- What to Wear to Bed
- Things To Avoid To Improve Your Night
- A Nightly Routine to Help You Get Into The Swing of Relaxation
Alright let’s get started.
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Okay, let’s get started.
Deep Sleep Vs Light Sleep
Just to reiterate what we discussed in Part 1, getting quality sleep is one of the best things that you could do for your health and for your fitness. It’s peaceful, it’s restorative, and most of all it is an absolute requirement for all humans.
Most people need somewhere in the realm of 6-8 hours of sleep per night in order to satisfy their resting requirements.
However, busy individuals may struggle to achieve this number and physically cannot allocate this much time for sleep. If this sounds like you, then you need to focus on improving the quality of your sleep, rather than the quantity.
High quality, restorative sleep occurs when you are in deep sleep. Sleep is a complicated process and occurs in different stages.
Just to summarize, there are 4 stages of sleep. 1,2,3 and REM sleep. As your progress through the stages of sleep, your brain waves progressively become slower until you reach what is called delta wave sleep. Delta wave sleep occurs at Stage 3 and this is what is known as deep sleep.
REM sleep is when your brain activity goes on fire and it resembles an awake state. This is where dreams occur.
Your body goes through about 4-5 cycles of going in and out of the 3 Stages and REM sleep each night. Stage 3 sleep or deep sleep is where restoration occurs. The more deep sleep you get, the less overall sleep you will need.
You will only spend about 30% of the night in deep sleep, but this is enough to promote the rest and relaxation we are after.
So now, let’s go over the strategies that will help increase the amount of deep sleep you can get. Don’t forget, improving the quality of sleep may be more important than the actual quantity.
Deep Sleep Tip # 1. Make The Environment Conducive To Sleep
The first thing that you need to do to improve your sleep game is to create the right environment. It all starts with eliminating as much light in your room as possible.
Your bedroom has to be as dark as you can possibly make it. Any glimmer of light from your window or from electronics can hinder your ability to get restful sleep.
This is because sleep is regulated by your hormones, namely melatonin.
Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate what we call the circadian rhythm. Do you remember how we discussed in Part 1 that your body likes predictability? The circadian rhythm is why.
Your body has an internal clock. It knows that towards the end of the day it needs to begin winding down so it begins to release melatonin. The more melatonin you have, the more sleepy you will be and vice versa.
Can you guess what decreases melatonin secretion?
You shouldn’t be able to see your outstretched hand in front of you
Melatonin levels are inversely proportional to the amount of light your body is exposed to. This is why it is important to make your room as dark as possible. If you still sleep with a night light, then I’m sorry, the time has come to let it go.
So how dark should your room be?
You shouldn’t be able to see your outstretched hand in front of you.
You can wear an eye mask, but studies have shown that light on your skin can also decrease your melatonin levels.
So the takeaway point is: Get yourself some blackout curtains, and unplug all nearby electronics!
Deep Sleep Tip #2. Play It Cool
In addition to making your room appropriately dark, it is important to set your room to the right temperature.
How many times have you woken up because you were hot? Or because you were sweating?
I don’t know about you, but waking up in the middle of the night and noticing that I am sweaty is probably in the top 3 most uncomfortable things in life. A close second is having to do laundry.
Being hot during the night is not only uncomfortable, but it can also interrupt your sleep.
Studies have shown that cooler body temperature is associated with sleep, while increased body temperature is associated with alertness and activity.
Utilize an air conditioner when appropriate. If not turn on a fan or two.
If you are into numbers, 65 degrees F is the optimal temperature to keep your room at.
It is always better to be a little cold than a little hot. You could always add additional sheets or blankets.
Deep Sleep Tip #3. It’s Not A Formal Event
This is also a good time to discuss the clothing you should wear to bed. Being overdressed will increase your chances of sweating and becoming uncomfortable.
You should also avoid wearing anything constrictive, especially bras.
The best type of clothing is pajamas. If you don’t have pajamas, any soft, loose-fitting, clothing should do.
The appropriate clothing will create a trigger in your mind that it is time to unwind and relax.
You could also be a minimalist and sleep in just your underwear or completely naked.
Deep Sleep Tip #4. Red Lights Vs Blue Lights
Everyone should know that spending hours on your electronics, especially right before bed, can affect the quality of your sleep.
What is the last thing you do right before you go to bed?
Check your emails? Send a few text messages?
All electronics emit a blue light which can cause a disruption in your circadian rhythm and melatonin production.
Additionally, a sense of stress could be created if whatever you’re doing before bed requires any emotional thinking. Reading about politics or your acquaintances’ relationship problems on their Facebook feeds are doing nothing for you except interrupting the time you should be winding down.
The best thing you could do is have an electronic curfew.
This means shutting down your phone/laptop/tablet even your television 30-60 minutes before bed.
If it is absolutely impossible for you to set an electronic curfew, you can utilize a ‘sunset mode’ which most smartphones have these days.
This setting changes the hue of the light emitted from the phone to a red light which doesn’t have the same effects as blue light.
There is also an application called f.lux which you could install onto your laptop that does the same thing.
Deep Sleep Tip #5. Get Out of Your Head
Another major cause of insomnia in many individuals is the inability to control their minds and/or prevent intrusive thoughts.
Doing stressful, work-related things right before bed, or thinking about important decisions can be a major source of stress.
One thing that you could do to put your mind to rest is meditation. Meditation has become part of our night routine over the past couple of months.
I know, it doesn’t sound sexy.
Most people are hesitant about trying meditation, but I’ll be honest with you- it works.
Meditation helps calm a racing mind and provides a relaxing sensation to your body.
The best part is, mediation is inexpensive. It will only cost you 5 minutes of your time. If you don’t know where to start, download the Headspace app or the Insight Timer app. They provide free guided lessons to teach you the basics of meditation.
Meditation also helps release a lot of the stress you may have accumulated from your busy day. It’s definitely worth your time to give it a try. The quality of your sleep will improve significantly.
If not, then do something else in your night routine that will increase deep breathing and let you be in peace with your mind. A quick 5-10 minute stretching session should suffice.
In fact, we created a simple routine you could follow which can be found at 9 Incredible Stretches To Improve Flexibility Fast.
Deep Sleep Tip #6. Learn Something
Another great technique to add to your nightly routine to help you get shut-eye and improve your deep sleep is to learn something. If you put your electronics down an hour before bed, you need something to entertain yourself before you go to sleep.
Pick up a book and read. If you need to study, this is the perfect time to do so. Don’t do this in your bed. Don’t forget, your bed is for sleep and intimacy only.
Get your textbooks and research articles and dim the lights. Chances are, you will eventually get super bored and become super sleepy.
Deep Sleep Tip #7. Exercise
You already know that this list would not be complete without exercise.
There isn’t anything that exercise doesn’t help. Exercise is a catabolic process, requiring a lot of energy and a lot of metabolites.
As a result, exercise naturally induces a state of fatigue as your body needs to go into a restorative phase.
Some have argued that you should avoid exercising too close to bedtime and that the best time to exercise is in the morning.
The argument states that exercise will raise endorphins in your body which can keep you in an excitatory, alert state, and therefore interfere with the processes that need to occur to help you sleep.
Anecdotally, I have no problem exercising within 1-2 hours of my bedtime. If you are someone who cannot exercise in the morning for one reason or another, I don’t think that the small possibility of it interrupting your sleep is a good enough reason to avoid it.
A warm shower after working out, along with tips #5 and #6 will more than compensate for the increase in endorphins caused by exercise.
In addition, exercise can help you lose weight, which by itself can also help improve your sleep. Excess body weight can lead to obstructive sleep apnea and dysregulation in critical hormonal processes.
Don’t know how to use exercise to lose weight? Check out our workout template for beginners!
Bonus Tip For Deep Sleep #8. Don’t Interrupt Your Sleep Needlessly
Far too often, people interrupt their sleep because they have to get up to urinate. I don’t know about you, but having to get up to pee is annoying!
You can avoid this by controlling your fluid intake close to bedtime. Do not drink large amounts of fluids after 6 pm. While it is important to drink a lot of water, you should get most of it done earlier in the day, as we discuss in our article on How To Stay Hydrated Like A Pro
It’s also a good idea to avoid alcohol and caffeine consumption anywhere near your bedtime. Not only do these substances affect the quality of your sleep, but they also have diuretic effects, increasing the chances of you needing to pee while asleep.
The Bottom Line On How To Get Deep Sleep Naturally
So there you have it. Here are 11 powerful tips to improve your sleep quality despite having a busy schedule.
Don’t forget, sleep affects every single thing that you do.
Pay it the respect that it deserves.
In the next post, we discuss caffeine. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of caffeine consumption. You can find it at Caffeine: Is It Healthy? Proven Tips On How To Stay Awake [For 24 Hours]
Now we turn it over to you:
Do you feel well rested after sleep?
Do you keep your room dark and cool?
Will you set up a nightly routine with meditation, stretching and reading?
Comment below and let us know!
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.