Tracking Sleep Stages: Are You Getting Enough Deep Sleep?

Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team

For optimal health, most adults should aim for about seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Maybe you’re well within that range—but are you getting enough deep sleep?1

When your head hits the pillow, it takes some time to get into the deep sleep stage, and if you have poor sleep quality, you may not be getting the deep sleep you need to feel well-rested in the morning. If you're curious about why deep sleep is important for your health and wellbeing, you might want to get a better understanding of your sleep patterns and learn how to track those deep sleep cycles.

Our sleep cycles: what is NREM and REM sleep?

Our brain cycles through two types of sleep in a typical night: Non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement sleep (REM).2

We generally begin our sleep cycle by going through the stages of NREM sleep before moving into a short period of REM sleep. NREM sleep consists of three separate stages, known as N1, N2 and N3. Each stage is linked to different types of brain activity, with N3 being where we experience deep sleep. During REM sleep, our eyes move rapidly from side to side with the eyelids closed.2 Dreams typically occur during REM sleep, as well. Then the cycle repeats until we’ve gotten a full night’s rest. We cycle through these stages about 4 to 6 times each night, averaging 90 minutes for each cycle.1

But to understand when we’re getting that important deep sleep and how to track it, we need to delve into the three sleep stages that occur during NREM.

What are the stages of sleep?

Let’s break down what’s happening in the brain and body during the three stages of sleep:

  • Stage 1 is the initial phase of sleep, lasting 5 to 10 minutes. It involves light sleep with a slower heart rate, breathing, and eye movements. Muscles are relaxed, and occasional twitches may occur. Brain waves are also slow. This stage is not particularly deep, making you more prone to waking up.2
  • Stage 2 is the period of light sleep before deep sleep. Your heart rate and breathing grow even slower. Your body temperature lowers and muscles continue to relax.1,2 Eye movements stop. Stage 2 includes only brief spells of electrical activity in the brain. You spend more time here than in any other NREM sleep stage. Stage 2 sleep prepares you for deep sleep and accounts for roughly 50% of the sleep cycle.3
  • Stage 3 is deep sleep, also known as delta sleep, slow wave sleep, or N3 sleep. During this stage, your heart rate and breathing slow to the lowest levels that occur all night. Your muscles continue to relax as well, and your brain waves grow even slower.1 Deep sleep takes place for a longer period early in the night and becomes shorter as you progress through the sleep cycle. It lasts 45 to 90 minutes initially and accounts for roughly 13-24% of our total sleep.3

What are the benefits of deep sleep?

Deep sleep helps support memory, learning capacity, and glucose metabolism in the brain. Additionally, the pituitary gland—which is linked to growth and development among other functions—is very active during this part of the sleep cycle. Adequate deep sleep also provides psychological benefits, improving mood and energy.4 Conversely, chronic sleep deprivation and insufficient stage 3 sleep is linked to having negative effects on the brain and heart.

Other benefits of deep sleep include:3

  • Tissue regeneration
  • Bone and muscle growth
  • Immune system support
  • Energy restoration
  • New cell growth
  • Increased blood supply

How can you track your deep sleep?

When tracking your deep sleep, you can consider the following options:

  • Phone apps: While it's a good idea to keep your phone out of the bedroom at night, if you do decide to sleep with it nearby, you can utilize apps that track your deep sleep using sonar waves. Place your phone on the mattress and check in the morning to see how much you moved and how much deep sleep you got.5
  • Wearable devices: Do you wear a Fitbit or an Apple Watch? If so, consider wearing your device while you sleep. It can track your movement and provide insights into overall sleep efficiency and quality. However, keep in mind that these wearables weren't specifically designed for sleep tracking, so their results may not be completely accurate.5
  • Smart beds and sleep sensors: For the most accurate deep sleep tracking, you can place sensors on or under your mattress. They monitor movement, heart rate, and breathing, providing data on REM and non-REM sleep stages. Popular options include Sleep Number 360® Smart Bed, iFit Sleep HR, and Eight Sleep Tracker.5

If you're really struggling with your sleep quality, reach out to a doctor. A specialist can conduct a polysomnography (PSG) test to gather more insights into your sleep patterns and overall sleep quality. Making sleep a priority and ensuring you get that restorative deep sleep is an essential part of taking care of your overall wellbeing. It's an investment in yourself that can have a profound impact on your health and happiness.

Metagenics offers a variety of products to support restful sleep:

  1. Formulas for occasional sleeplessness: MetaRelax, Tran-Q™ Sleep
  2. Formulas to help you fall and stay asleep: MetaSleep™


  1. National Institutes of Health Staff. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Accessed January 29, 2019.
  2. Felson S. What Are REM and Non-REM Sleep? WebMD. Accessed January 29, 2019.
  3. Murrell D. What Is Deep Sleep and Why Is It Important? Healthline. Accessed January 30, 2019.
  4. Cline J. The Mysterious Benefits of Deep Sleep. Psychology Today. Accessed January 29, 2019.
  5. CNET Staff. The 3 best ways to track your sleep. CNET. Accessed January 30, 2019.

This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues. For more information on sleep and stress management health, visit the Metagenics blog.

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