Light Sleep vs Deep Sleep: How much of each you need every day?

By Hamish Patel Jul 25, 2020

8 hours of sleep and still wake up fatigued? Chances are that your alarm yanked you off during the deep sleep phase of your snooze; leaving you particularly groggy. Ever heard of the phrase ‘quality over quantity’? Well, it holds good even for your sleep cycle, having a direct bearing on your mood and energy levels. 


To begin with, it will help to know what the different phases of sleep are and how much of each you need every day. 

The Different Sleep Stages: Light, REM & Deep Sleep 

Essentially a sleep cycle comprises a 90-minute phase that begins with light sleep, moves into deep sleep, followed by REM sleep and then returns to light sleep again. Of course, these cycles vary naturally, we are just talking in general terms here. On average, we are known to experience this cycle four to five times every night. 

Deep sleep vs Light Sleep

 Let us look at each of these closely:

1. Light Sleep

This stage begins just as you start to drift into a state of sleep. As this stage progresses, your heartbeat and breathing tend to slow down and your muscles start to relax. There is also a progressive decrease in body temperature and the brain waves are known to get less active.  Light sleep is extremely important for mental health, as it promotes physical and mental restoration and rejuvenation.  

How Much Light Sleep Should you Get?

Light sleep consumes the largest chuck in your sleep cycle, typically making up most of your night. There isn’t a minimum to strive for when it comes to light sleep. The fact remains that it is a default stage, which, in turn, leads you to the other stages of sleep. But to put things in perspective, let’s just say approximately 40% - 60%.

2. REM sleep

REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, as the name suggests is a phase where your eyes dart back & forth behind your eyelids. At this stage, your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and other parameters rise to near waking levels.  This is also the phase in which you are most likely to witness vivid dreams and process certain emotions. This stage is particularly important for your mood. Ever noticed a feeling of “low” after a dreamless night? Now you know why. 

How Much REM Sleep Should you Get?

The calm of the nervous system is important for REM sleep. Eating right, exercise, meditation can help induce REM sleep and extend your REM cycle. Typically ranging from 15% - 25% of your sleep cycle. 

3. Deep Sleep

As you move into deep sleep, your breathing, heartbeat, temperature, as well as brain waves, reach their lowest levels. 

The importance of deep sleep can be gauged from the fact that this phase is one where the body undergoes its healing process. Not only does tissue growth and repair happen at this stage, it’s also the time for restoration of cellular energy. 

While all the stages of sleep are significant, deep sleep is especially important for brain health and function. Restoration at this level is particularly needed for enhanced memory and learning functioning. Among other things, deep sleep helps the brain create and store new memories and improves its ability to collect and recall information. 

It stands to reason then that if a person does not get his required dose of deep sleep, the brain gradually starts to get affected. Long-term issues with deep sleep are also known to have a correlation with Alzheimer’s disease.

How Much Deep Sleep Should You Get? 

In healthy adults, between 13% - 23% of sleep is estimated to be deep sleep. In an eight-hour cycle, it amounts to around 1-2 hours of deep sleep. So, the next time you wake up refreshed, know that you got some solid clocking at the deep sleep stage. For those of you who have trouble with this, we have a few tips coming your way. 

Remedies for Deep Sleep

If you have trouble getting a solid night’s rest, rectifying your deep sleep cycle is the place to start things off. If you spend the better part of the night tossing and turning, clearly you aren’t getting enough deep sleep. This is where fitness tracker can come in handy in determining how much deep sleep you are actually managing to get. On that note, all our trackers can give you sleep insights, helping take charge of your sleep cycle better. 

Screenshots of Daily Target Progress

Below are some things that you could consciously do that could aid good sleep in general and deep sleep time in particular:

  • Set aside more time for sleep- What this does simply is to increase the number of sleep cycles, thereby increasing the probability of deep sleep.
  • Exercise- Vigorous exercise, early in the day is also known to improve deep sleep. Exhaustion automatically kicks you into a sound slumber. 
  • Dietary changes- Having a healthy diet and including fewer carbohydrates in the diet is recommended, as is avoiding a heavy meal close to bedtime.
  • Reduce Stress- When it comes to restful sleep, stress is clearly of little help. Managing if not avoiding stress, therefore, is crucial. Try yoga and meditation. Perhaps even some bedtime tunes to help you drift off into a sweet lullaby. 
  • Follow a routine- Setting up healthy sleeping habits with fixed bedtime hours is recommended. Your body follows a clock, it’s best to respect that! 
  • Avoid screentime before sleeping- Much as you like to get one final update on social media before you fall asleep, the use of electronic devices before bedtime, are known to suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, making it difficult to fall asleep. How about replacing screentime with book time or a sound dose of music?

And, on that high note, here’s to deep slumber filled nights and energetic days!

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