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What Happens If You Don't Get Enough Deep Sleep?

By Ashley Hinson
Sleep deprivation can make you more vulnerable to diseases, accidents, and long-term conditions that may hinder your health.

Does adequate rest elude you? You’re not alone. One-third of adults in the U.S. report not getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An insufficient amount of sleep hours may mean you’re not getting enough deep sleep, and sleep deprivation can increase your risk for certain diseases and chronic conditions while disrupting your waking life. 

What is Deep Sleep?

There are two kinds of sleep that happen while you're getting your daily rest: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. The deepest sleep happens during stage 3 of NREM sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep.

“Light sleep is something you can wake up out of easily with low interference or interruption for awakening. From deep sleep, it’s hard to wake anybody up,” Abhinav Singh, MD, MPH, FAASM, D.ABIM-SM, and facility director at the Indiana Sleep Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

The body restores much of itself during deep sleep. If you regularly miss out on this crucial stage of sleep, serious consequences can result. 

“REM includes the revitalization of the body: [Sleep regulates the] immune system and emotional regulation. Lack of sleep is now being associated with Alzheimer’s. You have more of a chance of getting diabetes, and you have a higher chance of dying,” Singh says. 

Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Deep Sleep

Not getting a good night’s sleep can contribute to irritability and daytime fatigue, and sleep deprivation is linked to depression. If you’re sleep-deprived, you’re throwing off your body’s circadian rhythm. 

“Sleep and eating are programmed from birth. They’re necessary for survival. If you don’t get adequate sleep, then you’ll feel sleepy. Then, you will disrupt your circadian rhythm,” Singh says. 

How will you feel if you’re sleep-deprived? According to the Mayo Clinic, being sleep deprived can make you feel:

  • Hungry
  • Less satisfied by food
  • Less focused
  • Short-tempered

“You’ll be hungry at the wrong times, less focused, less energetic. Athletes may make more errors. You’ll fall sick more because you’re not letting your immune system tune itself,” Singh says.

If you’re waking up in the middle of the night due to snoring, you may be experiencing sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that results in disordered breathing while you sleep and has been linked to weight gain, depression or anxiety, and even cancer. 

How to Increase Deep Sleep 

Dedicating time to deep sleep will renew your mental and physical health. 

Singh offers the following tips for optimal sleep: “Let nature and the body handle themselves. Give your body the opportunity to make sleep a priority. Give an adequate opportunity of 7-8 plus hours of bedtime. Make your internal and external environments as conducive to rest as possible.”

According to Mayo Clinic, setting a sleep goal, deep breathing, and healthy diet changes can also help condition the body for rest. 

“Read a book. Have a ritual to cool you off from your busy day. Unplug emotionally and electronically from things,” Singh adds. 

Think you may have a sleep disorder? Start your journey to more restful sleep TODAY.

Untreated sleep disorders can negatively affect your physical and emotional health. Sleep testing can help you get the answers you need to receive the treatment you deserve. WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.