Slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep, is the third stage of non-REM sleep and accounts for the deepest stage of sleep that you get throughout the night. It’s during this stage that your muscles relax and your heart rate slows.
There are a number of beneficial things that occur during this stage of sleep, such as physical restoration and the conversion of short-term memories to long-term memories.
When we don’t give our bodies enough deep sleep, they’ll do anything they can to get us back in bed to restore ourselves, leading to daytime sleepiness. Sleep deprivation can lead to a number of negative health outcomes such as Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, depression, and more.
If you’re feeling a little short on sleep lately, let’s take a look at how to increase slow-wave sleep naturally so that you can start feeling fully rested and restored. Once you know how to improve your slow-wave sleep, you can start making the necessary changes.
1. Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine
Your best defense against poor sleep is establishing a healthy routine. Each person needs a slightly different amount of natural sleep based on their age, so calculate your recommended sleep.
Your circadian rhythm operates best when you go to sleep at around the same time each night and for around the same amount of time. You may have noticed that during periods of time when you sleep odd hours, regardless of how long you sleep, you’re not as rested as you should be.
Even if you don’t get a perfect night’s sleep each time you lie down, allowing yourself enough time to get a full night of rest, over time, will establish regularity and result in more slow-wave sleep.
When you reach slow wave sleep, your memories are solidified, processed, and ready to be recalled later. If you don’t get enough deep sleep, you might not remember parts of your day and fail to catalog them into your long-term memories.
2. Use a Sleep Tracker
Sleep trackers can help you analyze your sleep cycle. Sleep tracker technology looks into the amount of movement you experience during sleep, your heart rate, and how those factors tie into the different stages of sleep that you’re in.
Working with technology like this can give you some insight into what might be going wrong if you aren’t feeling rested enough throughout the day. Once equipped with the data, you can develop a plan with your doctor on how to address your sleep frustration.
A look at your night’s sleep could queue you in as to why you’re not sleeping well.
Your first stage of sleep might not be flowing naturally as a result of the time you spend on your devices right before you settle into bed. Whatever the issue is, having a clear look at your night and the potential aspects that could cause you to wake up can help you identify them and make changes.
If you find that there’s some sound or disturbance that interrupts your sleep during the night, you might think about trying a white noise machine for sleep. Noise machines release deep sleep music that helps you stay in your natural sleep cycle throughout the night without interruption.
3. Incorporate Exercise into Your Schedule
Extended aerobic exercise can lower stress levels and produce endorphins—both of which can improve your mood and mental health. Expending energy also makes you tired.
However, the time of day that you exercise is also important when it comes to falling asleep. The chemicals that your body releases during exercise might keep some people awake for a period of time immediately after the exercise.
It’s good to try and exercise earlier in the day for this reason. Try not to exercise within an hour or two of the time that you plan to go to bed. This gives enough time for your body to process the endorphins and return to a normal resting temperature.
The nice thing is that you don’t have to do too much physical activity to experience the benefits of exercise on sleep. The AMA recommends that a person gets around 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.
That exercise can be anything from sprinting on a treadmill to going for a walk that increases your heart rate moderately for a period of time. Getting in the habit of daily exercise will increase slow wave sleep.
4. Avoid Screen Time Before Bed
Many of us check our phones or watch some kind of streaming service on a device before bed. Unfortunately, this common way to wind down might make you sleepy, but it negatively impacts the quality of sleep.
The blue light from the screens tricks your brain into operating as though it were still light out. The natural rhythm of sleep works in a way that produces melatonin when it’s dark and refrains from producing the hormone when it’s light out.
Holding a bright screen in front of our faces just before we go to bed might reduce the amount of melatonin that our brains produce to help us sleep. That can interfere with the depth of your sleep, especially if you’re repeating the process night after night.
To recap, slow wave sleep is the part of your night when your body finally gets to recover from the day and take care of all the odds and ends that occur underneath our conscious awareness. Try setting up a consistent bedtime routine and avoiding blue lights before bed to get on your way to your best night of sleep.