Deep vs. Light Sleep: How Much Do You Really Need?

It can’t be argued that a night’s sleep is an important time for our bodies to recover and re-energize. That being said, most of us have different sleep phases each night. This means we spend different amounts of time in several sleep stages, and as a result, may wake up still feeling tired, or if we’re lucky, will open our eyes feeling energetic and ready for the day. Most people would attribute the quality of their rest to what kind of sleeper they are. This brings us to light sleep vs. deep sleep. 

You’ve probably heard of self-proclaimed “light sleepers” being awoken by the faintest noise or experiencing sleepless nights from difficulty falling asleep. Meanwhile, proclaimed deep sleepers could sleep through a screaming baby using a jackhammer. But everyone experiences both light and deep sleep in their circadian rhythm. So what does this mean and what exactly is the difference between the two? 

Light sleep and deep sleep are two different stages of sleep that everyone experiences. Each sleep stage serves an important role in regulating your circadian rhythm so that you feel well-rested in the morning. Additionally, each stage has an effect on your dreams, overall brain function, and repairs your body for the next day. Read on to learn more about light and deep sleep and what happens during each stage. 


Is Light Sleep Good?

Light sleep is a non-REM or NREM sleep stage, and it’s easiest to wake up during this time. It occurs in stages 1-2. Light sleep may not sound very important, but it is a part of our sleep cycle that we need to wake up feeling refreshed from restful sleep. The first stage of light sleep is a transition phase and only makes up about 3% of our total sleep time; most light sleep happens in the second stage. The second stage of light sleep consists of over half of our time asleep each night. We are able to fall asleep and dream during this stage, but the dreams are not as intense as they are during REM sleep.

Typically as people age, they spend more time each night in light sleep. There is no specific amount of time needed in this phase since it’s not as refreshing as deep sleep. However, light sleep is still a necessary sleep stage for proper brain activity.


How Much Deep Sleep Should You Get?

Psychology Today defines deep sleep as “… a time of nearly complete disengagement from the environment.” A deeper sleep is also known as delta sleep, slow wave sleep or N3. It is a restorative sleep state where dreams do not occur, and still relatively little is known about it.  What we do know is that deep sleep is the third stage of sleep. During this stage, your heart rate and breathing slow down and your muscles relax to the point where you barely move. Deep sleep is necessary for your body and skin to repair itself and recharge for the next day. Your organs detoxicate, your kidneys clean your blood, and your body replaces cells, heals wounds, and builds muscle tissues as well. Most deep sleep happens in the first sleep cycle. If someone is woken up during deep sleep, he or she will usually feel disoriented for sometime after waking up. It can be very difficult to wake a person during deep sleep levels.

So how much deep sleep do you need? According to New Health Advisor, adults 18 and older need anywhere from 1.5-1.8 hours of deep sleep per night, which is about 20% of your overall sleep. Some people, however, may find they need more hours of sleep in order to feel fully rested and consider it a good night’s sleep. After all, there’s no such thing as too much deep sleep.

Understanding light sleep and deep sleep and how long you are in each stage every night can be helpful for you to monitor your sleep habits and patterns. Monitoring this during your bedtime routine can be useful for your nightly recovery so that you always wake up feeling well-rested and ready to conquer your day.  Want to understand how much deep and light sleep you are getting but are unsure how to keep track to improve your sleep? The Eight Sleep Pod seamlessly tracks your sleep stages, duration and quality of your sleep schedule. It uses temperature regulation to extend your periods of deep sleep in bed, so you get the recovery and benefits of sleeping your body needs to perform your best during the day. The Pod has other various features, such as the thermo alarm to wake you up gradually, advanced analytics, and an app so you can track your data conveniently from your smartphone. 

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