The Importance of Deep Sleep: The Science of How To Sleep Better | Dr. Michael Van - The Science Of Optimal Human Performance

Learn The Scientific Way On How To Improve The Quality Of Your Sleep

Today I want to talk to you about the importance of deep sleep.

Everyone has heard of the general recommendation that you need 7-9 hours of sleep. But really, it goes a lot deeper than just getting 8 hours of sleep a night.

The actual quality of your sleep matters just as much, if not more.

Watch my video now, or keep scrolling if you prefer to read the whole article…

 

The Importance of Deep Sleep: The Science of How To Sleep Better [2019]

Let me tell you a story:

I have an Oura ring that tracks the quality of my sleep and it’s not uncommon on some days for readings from the night before to be almost laughable because they are so bad

Sleep Analysis Software - The Importance of Deep Sleep: The Science of How To Sleep Better [2019] - Dr. Michael Van

Here’s a screenshot from my sleep tracking app…

Sleep Analysis Software - The Importance of Deep Sleep: The Science of How To Sleep Better [2019] - Dr. Michael Van

…Notice the “DEEP SLEEP” metric that I’ve highlighted.

But what you are going to find out from this article is that this metric isn’t laughable at all.

In fact, it is downright horrible!

You will find out that NOT getting enough high-quality sleep, especially that deep restorative sleep, has detrimental side effects that have huge implications to the health and function of your body.

What is Deep Sleep?

Before we go into the physiology of deep sleep, lets first do a little review of the sleep cycles…

When you sleep, your body goes through 4 or 5 different stages of the sleep cycle, depending on the reference you are looking at. You essentially have REM sleep and non-REM sleep, REM of course standing for rapid eye movement or ‘dream sleep.’

Stages 1-4 make up your non-REM sleep, and stage 5 make up your REM sleep. Stages 3 and 4 (some references combine these stages and just call it stage 3) make up your deep sleep.

Sleep - The Importance of Deep Sleep: The Science of How To Sleep Better [2019] - Dr. Michael Van

Now all of these stages of sleep are important, but deep sleep in stages 3 and 4 seem to be paramount…

During deep sleep, also referred to as slow wave sleep or delta sleep because your EEG readings consist of slow delta waves, have a few characteristics:

  • Your heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and body temperature are at their lowest
  • Brain waves are reduced to their lowest point
  • You become very difficult to awaken. When someone walks into your room, or there are sirens sounding off outside, the person usually stays asleep.

 

Why Is It Important?

But why is deep sleep so important? Let’s now look at the primary functions of this powerful stage of sleep.

1. The pituitary gland secretes important hormones, including human growth hormone.

This is the stage of sleep where the production of growth hormone is initiated.

This is vital for stimulating the regenerative and repair processes in your brain and the rest of your body.

Growth hormone, also called the fitness hormone, is needed in order to support growth, development, and recovery. This is the type of sleep that enables muscle growth and repair…

Human Growth Hormone - The Importance of Deep Sleep: The Science of How To Sleep Better [2019] - Dr. Michael Van

2. Repairing, cleansing, and detoxifying the brain

The brain has a waste removal system called the glymphatic system, similar and analogous to the lymphatic system for the rest of the body. The glymphatic system is at its peak activity during deep sleep!1

Just like the rest of your body, the brain accumulates waste as a result of metabolism.

And like the rest of your body, this waste in your brain needs to be removed! If this glymphatic system or waste removal system for the brain isn’t working properly, you will get a toxic buildup of waste products in the brain that can commonly lead to a state of mental fog, but also on a more serious level neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease.

(In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by an accumulation of waste products called beta amyloid and tau proteins.)

How this is done is fascinating… It seems as though your brain cells actually shrink in size by about 60% during deep sleep to create more space in between your cells. This will then open up space for cerebrospinal fluid to flow into those spaces and flush out wastes and debris.

Summary:

Low levels of deep sleep > down-regulation of the glymphatic system > accumulation of toxic waste products in your brain > unhealthy brain functioning / neurological disease or dysfunction

3. Reduces DNA damage and increases repair

Deep sleep also seems to be when the brain repairs cellular damage, particularly chromosome damage in your DNA.2

Similar to the glymphatic system, during wakefulness, you get an accumulation of DNA double-strand breaks, or damaged DNA in your brain cells.

Sleep seems to increase the chromosome dynamics that reduce the number of double-strand breaks, or for simplicity, repairs the damage in DNA that occurs when you are awake.

DNA - The Importance of Deep Sleep: The Science of How To Sleep Better [2019] - Dr. Michael Van

Summary:

Deep Sleep > Repairs DNA damage in your brain cells

Bottom Line

If you are not getting enough adequate deep sleep in stages 3 and 4, you are not getting proper growth hormone secretion.

This means that your body isn’t regenerating and repairing properly, and your brain gets clogged up with debris associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders that can put you at increased risk for dementia.

Did I mention it also inhibits your brain from repairing DNA damage?

As you can see, deep sleep is paramount to proper functioning of your body, and in my next series of articles we will explore what you can actually do to optimize your body and lifestyle to get the BEST deep sleep ever.

Stay tuned!

 

References:
1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190227173111.htm
2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08806-w

 

P.S.

For more information on sleep and other lifestyle optimization techniques, you can download my new, FREE eBook, just by entering your name and email below:

 

The 5 Mistakes Most People Make When Starting an Intermittent Fast (Plus Bonus Tips and Strategies for Optimal Human Performance)Free eBook - 5 Mistakes Most People Make When Starting an Intermittent Fast