Stress and Deep Sleep: Is there a Link?

Author Shirley Amy
Updated on June 9, 2024

Stress is an inevitable part of modern human life and is reportedly experienced by nearly half the population of US adults. While stress affects different age groups and genders in different ways, the triggering scenarios and recommended treatments are quite similar. One often overlooked factor impacting stress is deep sleep.

deep sleep and stress

The most commonly recommended solutions by health practitioners for coping with stress are “exercise” and “meditation.” While the positive effects of exercise and meditation on stress are indisputable, the importance of a good night’s sleep seldom receives the attention it deserves. Sometimes, it goes completely unmentioned.

Deep Sleep and Stress – Cause and Effect

A study published by UC Berkeley has shed light on the relationship between sleep and stress, specifically, deep sleep. Long story short, non-rapid eye movement sleep (AKA deep sleep) is the type of sleep most suited to battle stress, it is a natural anxiolytic (impedes anxiety). Every time your body and mind enter the state of deep sleep, your brain rewires itself and resets stress and anxiety levels in the process.

This entire process is cyclical and continuous. Therefore, you need deep sleep every night. It is not a one–time solution by any means. Miss out on one night of deep sleep and you miss out on the reset, resulting in stress and anxiety levels shooting up without resistance until your next round of deep sleep.

Additionally, we must be mindful of the fact that one of the symptoms of stress itself is insomnia. Essentially, being stressed could result in the inability to sleep deeply, and missing out on deep sleep spikes stress, causing a harmful, self-feeding frenzy.

With this new information, we can begin to perceive the vital importance of improving our deep sleep to assist with stress management. Even if you check all the other boxes such as exercise, meditation, music, etc. you simply cannot get a grip on your stress and anxiety if you are missing out on quality sleep. 

What Exactly Is Deep Sleep and How Can We Get It?

Unfortunately, you cannot order deep sleep in a bottle on Amazon. So, what is deep sleep and how do we get it?

Sleep is broadly classified into two categories, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. During REM sleep, your eyes dart from side to side rapidly and this is the stage of sleep where you dream. During this stage, your heartbeat and breathing are on the higher side and sometimes even irregular. This is not deep sleep.

Non-REM sleep comes in 4 stages as you go from being awake to a state of restfulness. Stages 3 and 4 of non-REM sleep are considered deep sleep. It is estimated that only 13% to 23% of your total sleep accounts for deep sleep, even though 75% is non-REM sleep.

So, how do we know if we are getting enough deep sleep? A general rule of thumb is this: if you wake up and still feel exhausted, it likely means you did not get enough deep sleep.

Tips for Sleeping Better

If you look up ways to improve your deep sleep online, you will likely see recommendations for using lavender oil and avoiding screens before bed. While the effects of blue light on melatonin suppression are well documented, you probably already know you shouldn’t be peering into a bright screen before bedtime. So, here are 2 tips that you may not already know, which may prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle in your pursuit of deep sleep.

The 4, 7, 8 Breathing Technique

Inhale for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Repeat at least four times while trying to fall asleep. The more cycles you do, the more effective.


It is estimated that a staggering 75% of Americans do not get their RDA of Magnesium. Magnesium has a calming effect on your body and if taken 1 to 2 hours before bed, it can support quality sleep. Unfortunately, the soils in which our crops grow days are depleted of several important minerals, including magnesium. Consult your doctor about supplementing with magnesium for sleep and recovery.

Create a Sleeping Schedule

Ideally, you should aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night and go to bed around the same time. Even on weekends when many of us tend to have drastically different sleeping schedules, you should avoid deviating from your weekday schedule by more than an hour.


Depriving your body of deep sleep, although sometimes unavoidable, is bound to result in increased stress and other unwanted consequences to your health. If you want to reduce stress, then improving your sleeping habits is a great place to start.


Author Shirley Amy

Shirley Amy is a Holistic Health Specialist and professional writer who's published 4 books. Her interests include optimum wellness, mental health, fitness, and positive lifestyle change. She holds University and College qualifications in the fields of Health Science, Nutrition, Mental Health, Fitness, Holistic Therapy and Aromatherapy.

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