Quality or Quantity: What Matters Most with Sleep?

To optimize your sleep health, you need to strike the right balance between how well and how long you sleep. Discover the right formula, here.

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

For years, researchers and doctors have recommended eight hours of sleep each night as a general best practice to help the body and mind rest and recharge. Interestingly, more and more professionals are also considering sleep quality to be of equal importance in reaping all the benefits sleep has to offer. In fact, sleep quality may be a better indicator of overall health, mood, and life satisfaction than sleep quantity. So how can you tell if you’re getting the most out of your sleep?

Missing the Mark

Whether it’s quality or quantity, most Americans aren’t reaching the suggested guidelines for sleep. Around 32 percent of Americans don’t get high-quality sleep and many adults do not reach the suggested range of 7 to 9 hours per night, either, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.

An Easy Fix

In some ways, improving the amount you sleep is easier than improving how well you sleep. To increase your nightly sleep quantity, go to bed at an earlier time or wake up later in the day if your schedule allows. Extending your sleep schedule by 30 minutes on either end can make a difference in how awake you feel in the morning.

Focusing on Quality

On the other hand, time in bed doesn’t always equate to time spent actually sleeping. Adding to this, the rise of electronic devices in the bedroom and other sleep-harming habits like drinking caffeine late in the day can lead to restless sleep and waking during the night. Not sure how well you’re sleeping? High-quality sleep includes the following:

  • Sleeping at least 85 percent of the total time in bed
  • Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
  • Waking no more than once per night
  • Remaining awake for no more than 20 minutes before falling back asleep

Easy Improvements

To increase your sleep quality, focus on adding in a relaxing nighttime routine and removing any stimulants that may disrupt your sleep. For example, take a warm bath or shower, read, drink herbal tea, or quietly meditate before you turn off the lights. At the same time, you might cut out caffeine in the afternoon, say no to that evening nightcap, and remove all electronics from the bedroom.

With these healthy habits in place, you’ll be able to improve your quality of sleep—and fewer disruptions may improve quantity as well, so you’ll wake up feeling energized in the morning.