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Quality Over Quantity - Our Evolution to Deeper, Shorter Sleep

In many situations the old saying, “quantity is better than quality” is a good concept. However, when it comes to a good night's sleep, quality may be better for you and your health. Every person has different sleep patterns, so while one person may need eight full hours of sleep in order to function the next day, someone else may only need six hours.  After a good night's sleep, if you are like most people, you feel like you can handle anything that comes your way. But, even with eight hours of sleep, frequent interruptions may make you feel irritable and have difficulty focusing the next day. If you aren't waking up feeling refreshed, it is time to look at your sleeping habits. You may be getting the quantity of sleep you need, but not the quality of sleep you need. Stages of Sleep There are three stages of sleep: light sleep, rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and deep sleep. Your emotional and creative abilities are nourished during REM sleep. The human growth hormone is secreted the most during deep sleep, which is when your body and brain gets the nourishment necessary to rebuild. REM sleep and deep sleep are when your body gets everything it needs to function, without feeling foggy and irritable the next day. However, sleep studies have shown that many people spend more time each night in a light sleep.  Quality vs Quantity Even if you are getting eight hours of sleep each night, when the natural sleep patterns are disrupted, it may have a significant effect on how you feel the next day. As you fall asleep, your body gradually goes through the different stages of sleep and your body needs to experience all stages in order to feel fully rested. So, if you are accustomed to sleeping for six hours a night and feel fully refreshed the next day, it means your body has completed all of the stages of sleep. However, if you sleep eight hours, but wake feeling more exhausted than you did before sleep, you may have gotten a quantity of sleep, but not a quality sleep.  Cause of Sleep Interruptions There are a number of things that may be disrupting your sleeping patterns, such as snoring, restless leg syndrome or stresses from the day. If you frequently feel foggy after a full night's sleep, you should consider talking with your physician to determine if you have a health problem, such as sleep apnea. Ask your spouse or significant other that shares a bedroom with you about your sleep habits. Chances are they can tell you if your sleep is disrupted due to things, such as snoring, tossing and turning or talking in your sleep. You might be aware of these interruptions that interfering with your quality of sleep. Other things that may interfere with your quality of sleep may include:

  • Consuming alcohol and/or caffeine before sleep

  • Eating sugary snacks before bedtime

  • Taking certain medications

  • Outside noise, such as watching television or listening to the radio while falling asleep

Along with establishing a regular bedtime schedule, there are several things you can do that may help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Remember, when it comes to sleep, quality is better than quantity, so it is important that you allow yourself to relax before bedtime. It is best to have a dark, quiet sleeping environment, so turn off the television. Instead, try reading for about 30 minutes before bedtime to help you relax and do not consume any food or liquids at least two hours before bedtime. If you continue to struggle with getting a good night's sleep, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss possible causes for your sleep disruptions.

The content on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Patients should not use the information presented on this page for diagnosing a health-related issue or disease. Before taking any medication or supplements, patients should always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional for medical advice or information about whether a drug is safe, appropriate or effective.