In search of deep sleep: the first week

After one week of eliminating screens before bed, I can confidently hypothesize that ‘other factors’ account for most of my deep sleep deficit. Or, that if screen time before bed is a factor, it will take some time before I’ll begin to see the benefits of eliminating it.

My first week of no-screens-before bed netted me two nights with zero recorded minutes of deep sleep. I had one (for me) good night with 40 minutes, which brought the average up a bit but overall the week was mediocre, averaging 15 minutes per night. Recall that my target range is between 75 and 120 minutes per night.

I should point out that at 15 minutes, my average deep sleep this week was still higher than the 13.6 minutes I averaged per week between January and early June of this year. So just under 90 seconds more deep sleep on average than what I’ve been getting this year.

More interesting, I think, are some of the other observations.

Deep sleep — when it happens for me — usually happens fairly soon after I go to sleep, and generally around the same time of night. One of my ‘zero’ nights was when I stayed up until 1am waiting for kiddo to come home from whatever unspecified activity she was engaged in. This would seem to underline the importance of a consistent sleep schedule. It seems deep sleep is like a VIA train. It comes once at a certain time and if you’re not on the platform, you’re out of luck.

REM in purple

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed

That expression ‘waking up on the wrong side of the bed’ is based on something. Recall, any actual human reader, that the goal of increasing the amount of deep sleep I get is to reduce depressive mood swings. People who suffer from depression have more REM and less deep sleep than ‘normal’ people. REM sleep is when you dream.

Now, I don’t remember most of my dreams — regular light sleep obliterates the memory I expect — but after a 2 minute deep sleep night this week, I awoke feeling as awful as I’ve ever felt. In Garmin Connect, my sleep graph shows a period of REM sleep immediately before waking. And I remember that dream. I won’t bore you with the details. My dreams are never truly awful. They’re just misery, disappointment and failure.

So my theory is that dreams flood your brain with the depression-inducing chemicals while you sleep and your first waking moments carry on from there.