What Is Sleep Quality?

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You might be getting enough hours, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting the most restful type of sleep. These strategies can help.

When it comes to sleep, quantity is important—but so is quality. Most adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours a night to wake up feeling well-rested, but a lot depends on exactly what happens during those hours. The quality of your sleep ensures that you get the essential physical, mental, and emotional benefits you need from your slumber.

 

How Do You Measure Good Sleep Quality?

Sleep quality is the measurement of how well you’re sleeping—in other words, whether your sleep is restful and restorative. It differs from sleep satisfaction, which refers to a more subjective judgment of how you feel about the sleep you are getting. Sleep quality is more complicated to measure than sleep quantity, but it’s not entirely subjective. Guidelines give an overview of sleep quality goals, and they include some individual and age differences. Four items are generally assessed to measure sleep quality:

Sleep latency: This is a measurement of how long it takes you to fall asleep. Drifting off within 30 minutes or less after the time you go to bed suggests that the quality of your sleep is good.

Sleep waking: This measures how often you wake up during the night. Frequent wakefulness at night can disrupt your sleep cycle and reduce your sleep quality. Waking up once or not at all suggests that your sleep quality is good.

Wakefulness: This measurement refers to how many minutes you spend awake during the night after you first go to sleep. People with good sleep quality have 20 minutes or less of wakefulness during the night.

Sleep efficiency: The amount of time you spend actually sleeping while in bed is known as sleep efficiency. This measurement should ideally be 85 percent or more for optimal health benefits. 

If you’re curious, this is how you can calculate it: First find your actual sleeping duration. Take your total time in bed (in minutes) minus how many minutes it took you to fall asleep and minus how many minutes you spent awake during the night. Divide that figure (actual sleeping time) by your total time in bed (in minutes). Finally, multiply that number by 100 to arrive at your sleep efficiency percentage. For example: 480 (total minutes in bed) – 30 (minutes to fall asleep) – 0 (minutes awake during the night) = 450 (actual sleep time in minutes). 450 / 480 = .9375 x 100 = 93.75% sleep efficiency

Together, these four elements can help you assess the quality of your sleep. They contribute to an overall sense you have of your sleep being “satisfying” or not. Improving your sleep quality can help ensure that your sleep cycles won’t be interrupted, which in turn helps assure that you will wake up feeling energized.

What Is Poor Sleep Quality?

Not surprisingly, poor sleep quality is characterized by the opposite factors. If it takes you longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, if you wake up during the night more than once, or if it takes you longer than 20 minutes to drift back asleep after waking up, your sleep quality is considered poor. You’re likely to feel tired the next day, even if you get the recommended number of sleep hours. It is important to note that there are some individual and age differences in these factors. For example, it’s common to wake up more frequently during the night as we get older. As long as you return to sleep quickly, this won’t hurt your sleep.

How to Improve Sleep Quality

If you’re concerned that your sleep quality is subpar, simple strategies may help. For instance, make sure that your bedroom is entirely dark (use blackout curtains to block outside street lights) and the temperature is cool (between 60 and 67 °F is ideal). Other lifestyle changes—such as drinking less alcohol and getting more exercise—may also help you upgrade your sleep quality.