Short Sleep and Improving Slow Wave Sleep

Short Sleep and Poor-Quality Sleep

If you usually get less than seven hours of sleep, you are a short sleeper. Many people are short sleepers due to lifestyle choices. For example, juggling work, recreation, and family responsibilities may not leave enough hours in the day to get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

But it’s not just the number of hours we spend asleep. It’s also the quality of your sleep that matters. Some people do not spend enough time in deep sleep. So, even if they get seven hours of sleep, it may not be good quality and restorative sleep they need.

If you are a short sleeper or do not get enough deep sleep, you might feel tired the next day and lack energy, which can affect your day to day activities.

What is Slow-Wave Sleep?

Sleep occurs in two main phases, which include non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement sleep. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep accounts for about 80 percent of the time you spend asleep. During that time, you cycle through a few stages of NREM from light sleep to deep sleep. Deep sleep is also called slow-wave sleep. The brain waves during this stage are low frequency.

During slow-wave sleep, your heart and respiratory rate are low. It is considered the deepest stage of sleep and the most difficult to arouse from. It’s also a critical phase of the sleep cycle.

Why Is Slow-Wave Sleep Important?  

Getting enough slow-wave sleep is important for a variety of reasons. During slow-wave sleep, your body repairs itself. The immune system is strengthened, muscles and tissues regenerate, and energy is restored. Studies have also shown that getting enough slow-wave sleep has a positive effect on learning capacity and memory.

Even if you get an adequate number of hours of sleep, but do not spend enough time in slow-wave sleep, you will likely feel the effects. Spending enough time in slow-wave sleep affects your memory, energy, and ability to learn. Daytime alertness is also affected by slow-wave sleep.

What Happens During Slow-Wave Sleep?

Researchers still don’t know everything about sleep. But we do know that a lot happens during the slow-wave phase. For example, along with repairing the body and restoring energy, slow-wave sleep helps sort out new connections in the brain.

We all take in a lot of information daily. The information you are bombarded with each day leads to new neural connections in the brain to store the data.

Sounds useful right? It can be. We need some of those connections to consolidate memories and learn. But we don’t need all new connections to remain permanent. Remember, there is a massive amount of information. If all the connections were permanent, your brain would become overloaded with information.

Your body has a way of dealing with all the unneeded connections. When you are in slow-wave sleep, your brain does a little housekeeping and gets rid of unnecessary connections.

Getting rid of unneeded connections help improve your alertness the next day. If you do not get enough slow-wave sleep, your brain does not sort through and get rid of the unneeded connections as effectively.

How Can Technology Help?

It’s clear that getting enough slow-wave sleep is essential for your well-being. But it’snot just the amount of time you spend in slow-wave sleep. It’s also the strength of the waves. Research has found that it’s the strength and length of slow waves that play a role in restorative sleep.

In the past, medications have been studied to improve slow- wave sleep. But the drugs failed to boost memory consolidation. Plus, as with most medications, the possibility of side effects was also an issue.

Fortunately, technology is now developed that can improve slow wave sleep. Clinical studies have indicated that specific sounds enhance the strength of the slow waves during sleep.

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