Let’s say you ask your partner or child: did you sleep well? What exactly do you mean? What does it mean to get quality sleep?
We’ll answer these questions in this article.
Let’s dive in!
What is sleep quality?
The quality of sleep is characterized by a few important factors.
If you use a fitness tracker or app, you might get something like I did:
On a very good day, you’ll get the breakdown of how you did in the four stages of sleep.
These data are a good start. Let me explain.
There are four cycles or stages of sleep and deep sleep typically occurs around stages 3 and 4.
- Stage 1 (now “N1”): Although you have your eyes closed, you’re also aware of your environment. You have slow eye movement, your body begins to relax and your brain wave activity gradually slows down.
- Stage 2 (now “N2”): Your slow eye movements stop. You’re not easily disrupted and your brain wave activities are still winding down.
- Stages 3 and 4 (now “N3”): Deep and restorative sleep occurs. The brain produces slow waves.
- REM: Your eyes move quickly. Twenty-five percent of sleep is at this stage.
These data only tell us a part of the story of quality sleep.
How do you know if you are having quality sleep?
Let’s dive into some essentials of quality sleep so you get the full story.
1. Number of hours you sleep
One of the important pillars of quality sleep is the hours you sleep.
Sleeping fewer hours leads to sleep debt. Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you need to make up for the sleep you should have gotten.
The National Sleep Foundation gathered some of the brightest leading scientists.
After the scientists reviewed over 300 scientific studies, the researchers found that the hours of sleep a person needs varies based on the age of the person.
In general, the study suggests seven to nine hours of sleep for people above 18 years. Preschoolers, infants, toddlers, and newborns need more hours of sleep.
So you’re only sleeping for about 4 hours each night, your sleep debt each night is 3 hours at the very least.
The concept of sleep debt is similar to any kind of debt. If left unchecked, the debt and its interest compound, and soon, it becomes insurmountable.
According to one study, for each hour of lost sleep, it takes up to four days to recover.
2. Ease of falling asleep quickly
Tossing and turning in bed for hours is not only frustrating. It’s a common sign of several sleep disorders.
The circadian rhythm is our body’s timekeeper for sleep.
And it helps our bodies to respond to environmental cues that inform our bodies to feel sleepy or awake.
When it’s dark, our brain receives the signal to wind down and fall asleep.
One study found that over 40 percent of people with insomnia have trouble falling asleep.
True, most have us don’t fall asleep immediately we get to bed. It takes a few minutes.
3. Level of restorative sleep
There are four stages to our sleep cycle. Stage 3 is the stage where the body restores itself through muscle and tissue repair.
Insomniacs often don’t get enough sleep at this stage. This is why they wake up and still not feel refreshed or rested.
In one study, nearly 50 percent of over 1,000 adolescents reported nonrestorative sleep. And that could lead to more fatigue after waking up.
This lack of restorative sleep is also linked to sleep paralysis. It affects productivity during the day and may impair cognitive ability to do simple tasks.
4. Ability to focus and concentrate during the day
Sleep is not only an end in itself, but it is also a means to another end. This other end is how we perform after sleep.
We not only want to feel refreshed and rejuvenated after sleeping, but we also want to be sharper, more energized, and more productive.
Studies show that insomnia has negative effects on cognitive performance.
This is because of the constant loss of sleep.
One study showed that losing even one night of sleep affects our ability to perform on cognitive tasks.