How to Sleep Deeper

Deep sleep is the stage of sleep your body needs the most

Deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, is the kind that helps you wake up feeling recharged. If that doesn't sound like the mornings you're used to, there are a few strategies for how to get more deep sleep that are worth trying:

  • Adjust the time you go to bed
  • Maintain a set sleep schedule once you do
  • Make changes to your habits and environment
  • Use prescription treatments, as recommended by your healthcare provider

This article reviews how to sleep deeper at night and why getting more deep sleep can benefit your overall physical and mental health.

causes of decreased deep sleep

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

What Is Deep Sleep?

Sleeping deep means getting more slow-wave sleep. This name comes from the slow brain waves, called delta waves, that the brain produces during this point in the sleep cycle.

Slow-wave sleep is the deepest sleep stage. It is also called NREM Stage 3 sleep. This stage happens more in the first third of the night. It is very hard to wake someone when they are in the deep stage of sleep.

What Are the Stages of Sleep?

Sleep used to be divided into five stages and deep sleep was called stage 4. In 2007, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) changed the categories for sleep stages to:

  • NREM Stage 1
  • NREM Stage 2
  • NREM Stage 3
  • REM Sleep

How to Get More Deep Sleep

There are not that many ways to sleep deeper at night. That said, there are some strategies for getting deeper sleep that you can try.

Boost Your Sleep Drive

Being awake for a long time can enhance your homeostatic sleep drive—in other words, the longer you stay awake, the more you want to sleep. When you finally do sleep, you may sleep deeper.

This strategy is called sleep consolidation or sleep restriction. It's been shown to be an effective way to treat insomnia.

Sleep restriction is used as part of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) programs. Sleep deprivation can lead to deeper periods of sleep.

Follow Your Internal Clock

Sleep happens according to a circadian pattern, or your "internal clock."

You get more deep sleep earlier in the night. Irregular sleep interferes with the timing and can cause you to get less deep sleep.

To avoid messing up the timing, try to keep a regular sleep and wake schedule—including on the weekends.

Getting morning sunlight as soon as you wake up can also help because natural light is a cue for your circadian rhythm.

Change Your Behaviors and Environment

Some research has looked at how our behaviors and environments affect sleep in general, but we don't know as much about how these factors could help with deep sleep, specifically.

Overall, we know that exercise and daytime physical activity may help us sleep better, but we're not sure about the timing of physical activity if we want to sleep deeper.

Other habits may help us sleep deeper at night. For example, taking a warm bath or shower about 90 minutes before you go to bed and having a cooler bedroom may also improve deep sleep.

On the other hand, light, noise, and warmer temperatures can actually make it harder to sleep deeper.

Some researchers are looking at whether devices that give off electrical patterns, vibrations, sounds, or light could enhance deep sleep.

For example, one headband and app on the market claims to improve deep sleep by changing your brain waves. While it's been part of a NASA-funded study of sleep in astronauts, more research is needed to prove that it works.

Talk to Your Provider About Treatments

Some medications and substances can make you sleep deeper, including:

Do Any Sleep Medications Not Affect Deep Sleep?

There are also some sleep aids that do not seem to impact deep sleep one way or another. These non-benzodiazepine sleep aids include:

Do I Really Need to Sleep Deeper at Night?

If you feel like you want to sleep deeper, you may not know where to start or how much more deep sleep you should try to get.

People of different ages spend different amounts of time in deep sleep. For example:

  • School-aged kids and teens need to spend 20% to 25% of their sleep time in deep sleep
  • Adults need to spend 16% to 20% of their sleep time in deep sleep

Studies have found people spend less time in deep sleep as they get older. However, men tend to have a much sharper decrease in deep sleep as they get older compared to women.

Why Can't I Sleep Deeper at Night?

There are several reasons that you might not be getting enough deep sleep.

  • Weakened sleep drive. Taking naps or spending too much time in bed can weaken your sleep drive. You may lose some of your ability to sleep normally, and as a result, you may get less deep sleep.
  • Sleep disorders. Some sleep disorders can affect your ability to sleep deeper at night. For example, people with sleep apnea frequently stop breathing while they are sleeping and people with periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS) involuntarily move their legs while asleep. These disruptions can reduce deep sleep, but effectively treating them will help normalize sleep.
  • Substance use and medications. Caffeine, benzodiazepines, and opioid pain medications can all affect deep sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that can reduce deep sleep even hours after you consume it (for example, in a cup of coffee or tea). Benzodiazepines like Valium and opioid pain medications can also reduce deep sleep.

What Are the Health Benefits of Deep Sleep?

Getting enough sleep, including deep sleep, benefits your mind and your body. Adequate sleep is key for both your physical and mental wellness.

Growth and Muscle Repair

When you sleep deeper at night, your body can release growth hormone—the chemical that helps build and repair tissues.

Growth hormone is needed for normal growth in childhood, but it also matters to the health and function of adult bodies.

For example, it helps build muscle after exercise and limits the effects of normal wear and tear on the body. The increased blood flow to the muscles that happens during deep sleep helps these processes.

Brain Function

Getting deep sleep is also important for clearing waste from the brain, including a protein called beta-amyloid that has been found in abnormal amounts in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

Removing this waste helps your brain process and store memories.


When you can sleep deeper, it also helps your immune system function better and puts energy back into your cells.

What Happens If I Don't Get Enough Deep Sleep?

How much deep-stage sleep you get at night, may affect your health. The impact of poor sleep, including a lack of deep sleep, can be felt in your body and brain.


If you aren't getting deep sleep it may make chronic pain worse. A lack of deep sleep has been linked to a condition called fibromyalgia which causes pain, depression, and fatigue.

When you're able to sleep deeper, you may feel less pain.

Impaired Growth

Sometimes, not being able to sleep deeper at night can cause growth problems for kids.

For example, children with untreated sleep disorders (like sleep apnea) will get less deep sleep. Not getting enough deep sleep interferes with the release of growth hormone which can lead to slower-than-normal growth.

Fortunately, most children will catch up on growth once they receive treatment for a sleep disorder and are able to sleep deeper.

Alzheimer's Dementia

Research has shown that beta-amyloid plaques build up in the brain tissue of some people with Alzheimer’s disease.

It's thought that a lack of deep sleep may interfere with the process of clearing these proteins, which could make the disease progress faster.

Immune Function and Chronic Diseases

Not sleeping deeply can also affect your immune system.

If you are not able to sleep deeper, you may find that you frequently get common illnesses like colds or influenza (flu).

A lack of deep sleep may also increase your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease or cancer.

How Can I Find Out How Much Deep Sleep I Get?

If you're looking for ways to sleep deeper at night, you are probably well aware that you are not getting the amount of deep sleep that your body needs.

You may have frequent arousals during the night or make too many transitions from deep to light sleep. You may also wake up completely throughout the night. When you get up in the morning, you might still feel tired. Throughout the day, you might feel sleepy or fatigued.

There is no easy, accurate way to measure sleep stages, so it's hard to know for sure how much deep sleep you are getting each night.

The gold standard test for diagnosing sleep problems is a polysomnogram. It's a formal study done at a sleep center that measures: 

  • Electrical activity of the brain and sleep stages (measured with an electroencephalogram)
  • Muscle activity
  • Eye movements
  • Breathing patterns
  • Oxygen levels
  • Heart rhythm (measured with an electrocardiogram)
  • Leg movements

There are some limitations to a polysomnogram test:

  • It is disruptive to sleep
  • It is not good for long-term monitoring
  • It is expensive
  • It is not available to everyone
  • It cannot provide detailed insight into the long-term quality of sleep

Wearable devices may help fill the void left by sleep center testing. Fitness trackers and similar devices are easy to use and can be used over the long term.

Wearables and fitness trackers use a few different measurements to track your sleep, including:

Wearable devices can give you an overview of your sleep patterns but these measurements do not give you an accurate picture of your deep sleep.

As more research is done and the designs are improved, wearable devices may become more accurate and useful for helping people understand their sleep patterns.


Finding ways to sleep deeper at night can benefit your overall health.

Deep sleep, also called NREM Stage 3 sleep, is important for repairing the body and clearing waste from the brain. Not getting enough deep sleep can affect your immune system, and may increase your risk for dementia and chronic diseases like cancer. 

A weakened sleep drive, sleep disorders, and medication or substance use can all make it harder to sleep deeper at night.

A Word From Verywell

If you want to sleep deeper, there are a few strategies you can try.

For example, adopt a regular sleep-wake schedule, make your bedroom a place for sleeping, don't use electronics in bed, avoid naps, and don't spend too much time trying to sleep. It can also help to limit your intake of caffeine and avoid other substances that may reduce deep sleep.

If you think you may have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or insomnia that's preventing you from sleeping deeper, talk to your provider. You may need to have tests to see how you're sleeping and find ways to improve your sleep to benefit your health.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.