What is deep sleep and how much do we need of it? Part 2: The Experiment

We should be getting around 45% of deep sleep, as measured by SleepCycle and the Jawbone Up. I was getting less than that. In the last two weeks, I tried to push my deep sleep to the recommended 45%.

Did I manage?

Yes, but only on half of all nights. It’­­s not ideal but it’s a start.

What did I do?

I first wondered why I might be getting little deep sleep.

Three reasons came to mind:

  1. I go to bed too late
    Most nights I go to sleep after midnight. Sleep scientists advise to go to bed earlier
  2. I often eat before sleeping 
    I am often hungry and eat some bread with cheese before hitting the bed. Most sleep scientists advise not to do that
  3. About half of my evenings I have a glass of wine or beer
    A nightcap can help us fall asleep but alcohol has a treacherous double nature: it is a short-term sedative but a mid-term stimulant. A few hours into sleep and it can disrupt our sleep patterns.

I wasn’t 100% consequent with any of the three:

  • I went to bed before midnight on 6 out of 14 nights.
  • I didn’t eat before going to bed on 7 out of 14 nights.
  • I drank no alcohol on 12 out of 14 nights.

What influence did it have?

Here’s my best night with a whopping 59% of deep sleep.

That evening, all three factors came together: no drink, no snack and I went to bed early. Yet, looking at the second-best night, I am not sure whether these things really played a role:

This time I got 57% of deep sleep but I went to bed late and I also had a beer. The best nights clearly didn’t have much in common.

But I took another look and saw something that both nights shared: I got very little deep sleep the night before. As Eric Jain reminded us in the comments of the last post, our bodies make up for a lack of deep sleep – at least as the ‘official, non-REM deep sleep’ is concerned. Get too little of it tonight and you’ll get more of it tomorrow. So, on my best nights, I’d probably have gotten a lot of deep sleep no matter what I did.

Did you know your deep sleep is closely related to your mental health?

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