Although the importance of excellent sleep to health has long been recognized, no universal standard has yet been established. On the contrary, sleep quality is frequently defined by the individual who is doing the sleeping. The term “quality sleep” can mean different things to different people depending on their lifestyles, habits, and requirements. Whether or not a person gets enough sleep can be affected by a number of factors, many of which are constant across reports from sleepers. Feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day is one indicator of a good night’s sleep, but there are other factors at play as well.
The quantity of sleep does not necessarily correlate with its quality. That is to say, even if a person sleeps for a very long time, it may not be quality sleep because of disruptions. Even though sleep quantity and quality are evaluated in distinct ways, sleep hygiene can affect both.
What Is Sleep Quality?
Quantity and quality of sleep are two separate things. Different from the quantity of sleep you get each night, sleep quality refers to how well you actually rest.
The quantity of sleep is an easy metric to use because it’s easy to calculate whether or not an individual is meeting the sleep recommendations (usually defined as 7-9 hours for adults). In some ways, determining the quality of one’s slumber is more of an art than a science. The following traits are indicative of high-quality sleep:
- You can’t stay awake in bed for more than 30 minutes until you’re fast asleep.
- Your nightly awakenings average at one.
- You can get the amount of sleep that scientists say is ideal for your age bracket.
- If you awake, you go right back to sleep within 20 minutes.
- After a good night’s sleep, you can face the day feeling refreshed and revitalized.
Why Is Sleep Quality Important?
There are several benefits to getting a good night’s rest. Sleep is as necessary to human survival as air, food, and water. Daytime tiredness is reduced and one is better able to function the next day. Better sleep is good for your body and mind and improves your quality of life.
Getting enough shut-eye is essential to developing into a fully functioning adult. Children, especially those under the age of 18, need far more sleep than adults do for this same reason. Getting enough shut-eye is important for the health of people of all ages for reasons ranging from disease prevention to injury rehabilitation.
The consequences of insufficient sleep or poor quality sleep are numerous. Physiological causes include a higher chance of developing a stroke, heart disease, or hypertension. Psychological consequences, such as heightened irritation or the emergence of worry or sadness, are also possible.
Your own or others’ safety may be compromised by poor sleep. Insufficient sleep, for instance, might cause a person to make dangerous decisions that could have deadly consequences, such as getting behind the wheel.
What Factors Affect Sleep Quality?
When people don’t follow best practices for falling asleep and staying asleep, they may experience diminished rest. The following are also shared characteristics:
- Disrupted sleeping patterns. Maintaining a regular bedtime and wake time can help you get better rest.
- The place where one sleeps. There shouldn’t be any music playing or bright lights on in the bedroom.
- Avoiding electronic devices (TVs, computers, phones) that emit blue light, which increases alertness, in the hours leading up to night is recommended.
- Drinking excessive amounts of coffee, alcohol, or both. To fall asleep or remain asleep after consuming one of these beverages may be difficult.
- Drugs. Diuretics and other medications might cause frequent bathroom breaks, waking their users up in the middle of the night. Both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription sleep aids can have undesirable side effects, including drowsiness during the day.
- Snoring. Some snoring is to be expected, but chronic or severe snoring can disrupt sleep for both the snorer and their bed mate. This form of snoring has been linked to OSA as a possible indication (OSA).
- Issues with sleeping. Poor sleep quality is often the result of sleep disorders like insomnia, which make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Nighttime symptoms of narcolepsy include frightful dreams and frequent arousals, both of which can have a negative impact on the quality of sleep.
- Issues with mental health. People who suffer from sleeplessness are prone to developing mood and anxiety issues. Because of them, it may be difficult to calm your mind and get to sleep.
Sleep quality can also be affected by things like food, daytime exercise, travel, and chronic pain or sickness.
How Can You Calculate Your Sleep Quality at Home?
The first step in determining the quality of your sleep when you’re at home is to answer a few simple questions regarding your routine.
How Long Does It Take You To Fall Asleep?
While everyone’s time to sleep is different, the Insomnia Severity Index classifies poor sleep as occurring when it takes 30 minutes or more to fall asleep on a consistent basis.
How Long Are You Asleep in Bed?
Those whose time in bed is less than 85% spent sleeping have low sleep efficiency.
How Often Do You Wake up During Sleep? For How Long?
It’s recommended that it takes fewer than 20 minutes to fall asleep again if you want a good night’s rest.
The questions about your daytime and waking schedule that you should think about include the following:
- Does getting out of bed in the morning stress you out?
- Do you find it hard to concentrate or remain awake during the day?
- Do you frequently find yourself falling asleep or napping?
Answering these questions and keeping track of your sleep by writing down your routines and activities each day before bed can be aided by keeping a sleep diary. Keeping a sleep journal might be useful in figuring out what influences your quality of sleep. Then, if necessary, you can make changes to your routine or discuss your findings with your medical provider to get advice.
Signs Your Sleep Quality Needs To Improve
Think about whether you have any of these symptoms if you suspect your sleep quality is low:
- It takes you more than 30 minutes to sleep once you get into bed.
- You frequently experience multiple nighttime awakenings.
- When you awake in the middle of the night, you lie there for at least 20 minutes before going back to sleep.
- You don’t sleep more than 85% of the time when you’re in bed.
- You wake up feeling exhausted and struggle to maintain focus throughout the day. Is caffeine helping you remain awake?
- Your skin is breaking out, and you have red, swollen eyes with dark circles or bags under them.
- You’re gaining weight and finding that you’re constantly hungry, especially for unhealthy foods.
- You’re more anxious, depleted emotionally, and short-fused than normal.
- Doctors have told you that you suffer from sleeplessness.
Reasons for Poor Sleep Quality
A poor night’s sleep could be caused by a variety of factors. Sleep apnea, stress, and other chronic health conditions and sleep disorders are just some of the possible causes of poor sleep quality.
Poor Sleep Habits
The quality of your sleep can be negatively affected by things like sticking to an inconsistent sleep schedule or ingesting excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol. A vast number of characteristics were shown to be related with poor sleep quality in a study of nursing students, including smoking and daily coffee use. Even though it’s a sedative, alcohol can cause sleep disturbances.
Stress and Anxiety
Sleep problems are frequently associated with general mental illness, such as increased stress, depression, or worry. Unfortunately, the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and insomnia just makes things worse.
Chronic Health Conditions
Consistently low quality of sleep is linked to a variety of long-term health problems. Some examples are fibromyalgia, cancer, chronic pain, and a variety of autoimmune disorders. The negative effects of stress and anxiety might be compounded by an inability to get appropriate rest.
Insomniacs who suffer from sleep apnea often make gasping, choking, and snoring noises as they wake up from their sleep because of these periodic interruptions in breathing. The brain has to initiate breathing anew, even if the person isn’t consciously aware that they’re awake. People with sleep apnea frequently report problems with daytime sleepiness and low energy levels.
Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder
Some sleep problems go undetected until the affected individual seeks medical attention for unrelated symptoms, such as poor sleep quality, or until their bed partner brings their attention to the problem. Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is characterized by involuntary jerking movements of the legs during sleep, which leads to poor sleep quality, daytime weariness and lack of focus. People who have narcolepsy generally have trouble sleeping and feel tired during the day.
How To Improve Your Sleep Quality
Fortunately, it may be as easy as practicing better sleep hygiene to enhance the quality of your nightly slumber. Maintaining excellent sleep hygiene is as important as maintaining good dental hygiene, which is doing things like brushing and flossing on a regular basis to keep your teeth healthy.
You can try some of these suggestions to get a better night’s rest.
- At least 30 minutes before night, put away the TV, phone, and computer. The blue light given out by electronic devices is mistaken by the brain for actual sunlight, causing you to stay awake longer than you would like.
- Make your room a cool haven of darkness and silence. Use blackout drapes or a white noise machine to help you unwind, and set the temperature to between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle. Maintaining a regular bedtime and waking time helps your brain learn these natural rhythms.
- Make sure you have time in your schedule to get some shut-eye. Adults should sleep for at least 7–9 hours nightly.
- Start a ritual before bed that helps you wind down. Choose things that help you unwind, such a warm bath, an audiobook, or writing in a diary. By sticking to the same routine each night, you can train your brain to associate that sequence with the upcoming sleep state.
- Take it easy on the booze and coffee for a while. Both medications have the potential to linger in the body for an extended period of time, impairing one’s ability to get restful sleep. Alcohol should not be consumed within three hours of bedtime, and caffeine should be avoided within five hours.
- Morning is the best time to soak up some rays of sunshine. You may reset your internal body clock with just 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure in the morning.
Talk to your doctor if you’re still having difficulties sleeping after trying these solutions. They might suggest a change in routine, therapy, or medicine that will help you get better rest.
How Do Professionals Evaluate Sleep Quality?
You’re not alone if you feel like you’re not getting enough rest each night. You can improve your chances of getting a good night’s rest by making your bedroom more conducive to sleep, maintaining healthy daytime routines, and using other tactics for healthy sleep.
Seek medical advice if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep researchers and devices like the Pittsburgh Quality Sleep Index allow doctors to assess how well patients rest (PSQI). The PSQI is a set of questions used in clinical and research contexts to assess sleep-related behaviors. Patients rate themselves on seven different dimensions, including how well they slept, if they had any problems while sleeping, and how their condition affected them during the day. Professionals take the patient’s responses to these questions and use that information to design a plan to enhance the quality of sleep the patient experiences.
When sleep problems like apnea or narcolepsy are suspected, it may be important to do sleep studies. Polysomnography is a frequent test in which patients are monitored in a sleep lab throughout the night. Other assessments include checks of the liver, heart, and lungs, as well as various sleep latency tests, in which the patient’s ability to fall asleep is assessed; the maintenance of wakefulness test, in which the degree of daytime drowsiness is determined; and the maintenance of wakefulness test.
However, these assessments are limited in their accuracy because of the subjective nature of determining sleep quality. Instead, the information gleaned from these tests is specific to the individual’s sleep habits and can shed light on any behavioral anomalies that may be at the root of poor sleep quality.