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Here’s how to determine the quality of your sleep.

We all know the importance of getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night. However, the reality is that those hours don’t mean much if you wake up feeling unrefreshed to start your day.

If that’s the case, you’re probably not getting enough sleep. In order to reap the benefits of sleep, counting only the number of hours you spend catching ZZZZZZ won’t do you much good, even if you think you slept well.

The first step to improving your sleep is to understand what we mean when we talk about sleep quality. Read on to find out what sleep quality is, how sleep quality is measured, and what you can do to improve it.

What is sleep quality?

Sleep quality and sleep quantity are two different things. Sleep quantity measures how much sleep you get each night, while sleep quality measures how well you sleep.

Sleep quality is also not to be confused with sleep satisfaction, which is your own perception of how well you sleep. Many lifestyle factors contribute to sleep quality, including living with certain health conditions, what you eat or drink before bedtime, your sleep environment, and how you handle stress.

For example, a September 2017 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health showed that high levels of stress are associated with poor sleep quality. Researchers found that medical students who did not suffer from stress were less likely to have poor sleep quality, while the risk of poor sleep quality was nearly four times higher in those with much lower GPAs.

How is sleep quality measured?

It can be a little tricky to determine the quality of your sleep, but with a little careful attention to your sleep, you can quickly find out how restful, or not, your sleep really is. Here are the four main things to keep in mind when it comes to measuring sleep quality:

Sleep latency refers to how long it takes to fall asleep once you’re in bed. According to the Fundamentals of Sleep Medicine, normal sleep latency is between 10 and 20 minutes. The more sleep you get before lights out, the faster you’ll fall asleep. But sometimes, a faster sleep latency can indicate sleep deprivation. For example, people with hypersomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, may have a sleep latency of less than eight minutes.
Sleep wakefulness is the frequency with which you are interrupted from sleep during the night. Waking up frequently at night interrupts your sleep cycle, in which you alternate between non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages throughout the night. It is important to go through four to six sleep cycles a night for restful sleep. When your sleep cycles are disrupted, you are at a higher risk of not getting quality sleep.
Wakefulness is how many minutes you are awake during the night after falling asleep. Generally, those with good quality sleep are awake 20 minutes or less. It is normal to wake up two or three times a night for 30 seconds to a minute, but you should be able to roll over and go back to sleep fairly quickly.
Sleep efficiency measures how much time you actually sleep versus how much time you spend trying to fall asleep. Ideally, you want to spend 85% of your time asleep.

Use this formula to determine the quality of your sleep.

If you’re wondering what your sleep quality is, there’s a formula to find out. Here’s how to do it: identify your total time in bed (in minutes) and subtract how many minutes it took you to fall asleep and how many minutes you spent awake in the middle of the night. This is how long you actually sleep at night. Next, take this number and divide it by your total time (in minutes) in bed. Finally, take that number and multiply it by 100 to get your sleep efficiency percentage.

For example, let’s say you spend about 420 minutes (seven hours) in bed at night. It takes you 30 minutes to fall asleep and you spend another 30 minutes awake during the night. That’s 360 minutes you’re actually sleeping at night. Now, divide that number by 420, which is 0.85. Multiply that by 100 and you get 85% sleep efficiency.

Sleep quality formula: identify your total time in bed (in minutes) and subtract how many minutes it took you to fall asleep and how many minutes you spent awake in the middle of the night. Take that number and divide it by your total time (in minutes) in bed. Take that number and multiply it by 100 to get your sleep efficiency percentage. By keeping these four factors in mind, you can gauge how good or bad your sleep quality is. Being diligent in making lifestyle changes to support these sleep quality principles can help you feel rested and energized the next morning.


What is poor sleep quality?

With the four sleep principles in mind, some signs of poor sleep quality are taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, waking up frequently during the night, and not being able to fall back to sleep quickly if you wake up.

Another warning sign is feeling tired in the morning, even after getting the recommended amount of sleep for your age. For example, adults ages 24 to 64 should get seven to nine hours of sleep at night.

As mentioned, many lifestyle factors can contribute to poor sleep quality, such as age, poor sleep hygiene, sleep disorders or health conditions, having young children, and occupation.

Poor sleep hygiene
What you do during the day can affect how well you sleep at night. For example, consuming too much caffeine and alcohol can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Drinking too many caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks, throughout the day can keep your eyes wide open at night. And while alcohol is a sedative and may help you fall asleep quickly at first, it can cause you to wake up more and make it harder to fall back asleep.

Also, exposing yourself to a lot of blue light from your phone (raise your hand if you’re guilty of late-night Instagram browsing), computer or TV before bed can interfere with your melatonin (the sleep hormone) levels, making it harder for you to fall asleep when you’re ready to go to sleep.

Eating high-fat foods , such as cheeseburgers and french fries, and heartburn-inducing dishes, such as spicy chicken wings, can also keep you awake.

In addition, not going to bed and waking up at the same time can affect your circadian rhythm and disrupt the way your body regulates sleep and wakefulness. Parents of infants and young children, and those who work night shifts or have irregular work schedules, such as doctors, nurses, and people who work in hospitality or retail, are prone to irregular sleep.

Health conditions and sleep disorders.
People living with sleep disorders , such as sleep apnea and insomnia, have more difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. People with sleep apnea, for example, may wake up breathless during sleep, and people living with insomnia due to anxiety or depression may have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

Having a thyroid disorder, such as hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), can also make you feel more anxious and increase your body temperature, making it difficult to sleep well. On the other hand, people with diabetes may experience sleep disruptions at night due to restless leg syndrome , peripheral neuropathy and excessive thirst.

As you age, your body undergoes changes in your metabolism and hormones that can affect the quality of your sleep. For example, taking certain medications can cause older adults to wake up frequently during the night to urinate.

Older people are also more likely to develop insomnia because they live with chronic pain from arthritis or fibromyalgia and have back or hip pain.

Poor quality sleep can lead to a variety of negative health effects, including stress, anxiety, depression, a weakened immune system and diminished cognitive function. Therefore, it is important to address these issues head-on and work to make lifestyle changes that improve sleep quality.

How to improve the quality of your sleep
While there are certainly some things out of your control, there are steps you can take to improve the quality of your sleep and support consistent, restful sleep.

Limit screen time an hour or two before bedtime and schedule a nighttime shutoff to remember when to turn off the TV and put away your phone and laptop. Or you can wear glasses that block blue light and put your phone on night mode, which reduces brightness.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime because they can negatively affect your melatonin levels and make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Eat foods rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, tryptophan and vitamin B6, which are key nutrients that contribute to better sleep quality.
Adopt a relaxing nighttime routine that helps prepare your body for sleep. Doing a quick, light yoga flow, taking a relaxing bath, meditating and journaling can help you tap into your parasympathetic nervous system and de-stress.
Work with your doctor to address underlying health conditions and medications that are wreaking havoc on your sleep quality. Your doctor can recommend a new treatment plan to help alleviate symptoms.
Create a comforting sleep environment . Adjust your bedroom temperature to be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, use a white noise machine to block out sounds that may disturb sleep, add breathable but cozy sheets to your bed and invest in a high-quality mattress. At newpillow360 we offer a high quality pillow to suit every sleep style – shop our pillow to find your perfect sleep partner!.