GETTING the right amount of sleep is important to our day to day functioning, but there is one particular stage of sleep that’s crucial to keeping healthy.
Deep sleep, also known as delta sleep due to the slowing of brain waves, is said to help us remain healthy and functional as we age. Here’s the lowdown…
OJO Images Getting the right amount of deep sleep is vital to help your body heal
What is deep sleep?
Sleep can be split into four different stages: stage 1, the lightest sleep, stage 2, which is the most enjoyable sleep, REM, in which we dream, and stage 3 – deep sleep.
Deep sleep is when the brain waves slow and resemble what is known as a delta pattern, and the heart rate and breathing rate also slow down.
The thinking parts of the brain essentially shut down, the muscles completely relax and no dreams take place during this time.
This type of sleep is when the body grows and heals, with the body secreting various hormones to repair muscles and tissues, as well as strengthening your immune system.
Alamy Deep sleep is also known as delta sleep or stage 3 sleep
How much deep sleep should we be getting?
While half of our nights sleep is spent in stage 2 sleep, and a further quarter in REM, we should spend around 15 to 20 per cent in a deep sleep.
The stage will only last for a few minutes per cycle, and we are most likely to experience it in the first hours of our nights sleep, when we are less likely to be woken up.
Adults should aim for more than 1 and a half hours of deep sleep per night, or around 20 per cent of their overall night, and you can never have too much of it.
For children the figures remain the same, requiring 20 per cent depending on the full amount of sleep recommended for their age.
Babies should be sleeping from 12 to 17 hours a day, toddlers between 10 and 14 hours and school-age children between 9 and 11 hours, with teenagers needing even less at 10 hours.
Alamy We should all have around 20 per cent of our nights sleep in stage 3 sleep, including babies who need 12 to 17 hours a day
Why is deep sleep so important?
Stage 3 sleep is the bodies best opportunity to heal itself and promote growth, so young people or those with chronic illnesses, deep sleep is essential to repair any damage.
Without deep sleep we can suffer ageing at a faster rate and make it harder for us to keep heart disease, bone problems or neurological issues like dementia at bay.
Making sure you get enough can be vital to ensuring your health in later life, so allowing adequate time in the night to sleep is the best way to encourage deep sleep.