Around 90% of Americans say they feel very effective at completing their daily tasks, compared to only 46% of those who do not enjoy good sleep quality, according to The National Sleep Foundation’s 2018 Sleep in America poll. Good sleep is not just about the number of hours (seven to nine are generally recommended for adults); quality, too, is important, and if you want to achieve it, you need to ensure you are ticking all the boxes. If you suspect you have sleep apnea or another serious condition, then seeing a sleep specialist is key. However, if you are simply curious or you would like to make efforts to improve your rest, ask yourself if you are fulfilling the requirements set by the National Sleep Foundation.
Are You Getting it Right?
Sleep quality involves the following: falling asleep in less 30 minutes or less; sleeping throughout the night/waking up no more than once; sleeping around 85% of the total time you are in bed; and being awake for 20 or less minutes in total after initially nodding off. If you find that you are waking up frequently or tossing and turning in bed, you may not be getting the rest you need.
Sleep Cycles are the Answer
The reason why good sleep quality involves all of the above is that in order to enjoy restful sleep, you need to enter all the relevant sleep cycles. There are five stages of sleep in total: in Stage 1, you drift in and out of sleep and are easily awakened. In Stage 2, you enter into light sleep as your heart rate and body temperature lower. Stages 3 and 4 are the deep sleep stages – these stages are key to a number of bodily functions, including the strengthening of the immune system, energy and cell restoration, and tissue and bone growth. The deep sleep stages (commonly referred to as the ‘delta sleep stages) are also the point in which the body produces Human Growth Hormone (HGH) – which stimulates the production of cartilage, bone, muscle, and organs. In the fourth stage, there are more delta waves produced than in the third stage. Stage 5 is the REM or dreaming stage – one in which the brain is ultra-active.
Identifying Important Changes
If you find that you aren’t getting the sleep quality you need, try to make changes that will promote a more restful night. First of all, ensure you have the tools you need to sleep well – including comfie pillows that are the right height (to avoid neck pain) and a mattress that is the right firmness for your sleeping position. Back and tummy sleepers will need a firm mattress, while side sleepers should opt for memory foam latex mattresses, which supports all parts of the body equally. Do your research before buying; a great resource for mattress reviews will provide advice pertaining to your sleeping position. Finally, make sure your bedroom is dark and silent. Keep TVs and other gadgets outside to avoid the temptation to stay up later than you should.
Establishing a Sleep Routine
It is important to sleep at the same time everyday and to establish a relaxation routine. This might involve showering or bathing before bed time, or taking part in breathing exercise or mindfulness meditation – to lower stress before you get into bed. Avoid stimulant foods and beverages like coffee and tea in the late afternoon and have a small snack if you feel hungry before getting into bed.
Sleep quality is not the same as sleep quantity. It involves sleeping the full night through if possible, so you hit all the required stages of sleep. Consider making changes to your bedroom layout and routine, and if you still wake up feeling tired or you are sleepy throughout the day, see a sleep specialist to rule out a condition like sleep apnea.