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Quality or Quantity: What Matters Most with Sleep?

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Counting hours is important, but so is measuring soundness. Learn why how well you sleep is as important as how long.

When it comes to setting sleep goals, most people focus on the number of hours they spend in bed. While that is a good benchmark to start, in order to get the most out of your shut-eye you need to focus on the restfulness of your sleep as well. Discover how to maximize both aspects of sleep to wake up feel rejuvenated.

What to Know About Sleep Quantity

Most adults should aim for the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night, But in fact, for young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, some may need as little as 6 hours of sleep per night, while others require up to 10 or even 11 hours to full restore their energy. Because each person is different, you need to be the judge of whether you feel alert after 8 hours of sleep, or if you’d benefit from an hour or two more or less.

Measuring Sleep Quality

Unlike sleep quantity, sleep quality refers to how well you sleep. For adults, good quality sleep means that you typically fall asleep in 30 minutes or less, sleep soundly through the night with no more than one awakening, and drift back to sleep within 20 minutes if you do wake up. On the flip side, bad sleep quality is the kind that leaves you staring at the ceiling or counting sheep. It may be characterized by trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, restlessness, and early awakenings.

The Perfect Formula

In order to feel your best, you should focus on sleep quantity and quality. Just like skimping on the amount of sleep you get makes it hard to function, poor sleep quality can also leave you feeling exhausted the next day and even impact your frame of mind. Good quality sleep, on the other hand, may improve your mood more than quantity because uninterrupted sleep allows you to get the optimal amount of restorative sleep.

Of course, sleep quality can be more difficult to measure than sleep quantity. If you have concerns, talk with your doctor. A physician may recommend lifestyle changes (more exercise, say, or limiting how much alcohol you drink in the evening) that can help improve your odds of a restful night.