When we speak about getting healthy sleep, a good number of people immediately think of the number of hours they sleep. While this is important and profitable, sleep duration is just an aspect of a healthy sleep called sleep quantity.
Another part of sleep contributes to the degree of its healthiness, and that is the quality of sleep. Sleep quality refers to getting a regular amount of good, restorative sleep so your body can perform the vital processes it needs for optimal health. It is the proper application of both sleep quality and quantity that births proper sleep and gives the body all it needs.
A person's sleep quantity is the number of hours they sleep each night. Each age grade has a required number of sleep hours they need. The various sleep time recommended for the varying age grades are:
- Sleep time for newborns is 14-17 hours. Infants aged 0 to 3 months are newborns.
- Sleep time is between 12 and 15 hours for older infants. The term "older infant" refers to a child aged 4 to 11 months old.
- Sleep time for toddlers is between 11 and 14 hours per night. These are children aged 1 to 2 years.
- Sleep time for preschoolers should be between 10 and 13 hours. Preschoolers are 3 to 5 years old children.
- Children of school age (preteens) require 9 to 11 hours of sleep every night. This category consists of children between the ages of 6 and 13.
- Teenagers need to sleep for 8 to 10 hours a night, and they are aged 14-17 years old.
- The average young adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep. The age range for this group is 18 to 25.
- Adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily, and they are aged from 26 to 64 years old.
- Those aged 65 and older should sleep for 7 to 8 hours per night.
To achieve the correct quantity of sleep, all you need to do is ensure you get the amount of sleep expected for your age. However, it’s also important to note that these hours are for the general population. So, unique cases may arise in individuals taking them outside the time recommended for their age grade. Thus, you should be mindful of all aspects of your health when determining the amount of sleep you should get.
Here, the focus is not on how long you sleep but on how well you sleep. Measuring sleep quality is far trickier than measuring sleep quantity, where you need to check the number of required hours vis-a-vis the number of hours you have slept. In measuring sleep quality, a lot more factors come into play. The National Sleep Foundation has highlighted the characteristics of quality sleep to include:
- Your body falls asleep within 30 minutes of retiring to bed.
- Your sleep is usually uninterrupted, and you wake up not more than once at night.
- You sleep the number of hours required for your age group.
- If you wake up, you fall back asleep within 20 minutes.
- You wake up feeling refreshed, energised and restored.
Another measure of quality sleep is how well your body functions during the day, including whether or not you’re awake and capable of carrying out your routine cognitive and physical tasks.
To determine whether you’re getting quality sleep or not, you can look for signs like:
- Excessive caffeine consumption during the day
- Junk food cravings
- Weight gain
- Stressful feelings
- Emotional exhaustion,
- More-than-usual anger
Sleep Quality vs Sleep Quantity
Indeed, you might be having the required sleep quantity, but if it doesn't feel refreshing, if there is a craving for caffeine, or if falling back asleep after waking is incredibly tedious, then you’re not getting quality sleep. Of course, it works both ways - where you might have quality sleep but you’re sleeping some hours short of the required sleep quantity.
To fully maximise the benefits of sleep on your body, you must ensure your sleep hygiene and schedule incorporate the correct sleep quantity and quality.
Tips to Improve Sleep Quality and Quantity
Interestingly, most of the practices that improve sleep quality will also affect the quantity of sleep you get. These include:
1. Resolve to maximise the positive effects of sleep. The first step to improving your sleep life is deciding to do so.
2. Put away electronic devices like a cellphone or laptop and turn off the television at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. Sleeping can be difficult due to the blue light emitted from these devices.
3. Try to avoid caffeine-containing beverages around six hours before you go to bed and alcohol within three hours of going to bed. Alcohol and caffeine can disrupt sleep and make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
4. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. When you have poor bedtime habits, such as going to bed too early or too late, you might find it difficult to sleep.
5. The ideal temperature for your bedroom is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because the temperature of a room can interfere with sleep when it is too cold or hot.
6. Consider doing something relaxing before bedtime, like reading or taking a bath. Stress and high-energy activities reduce the likelihood of a smooth transition to sleep.
You must be conscious of the subtle differences between sleep quality and quantity and ensure your sleep hygiene cater for both. There are several ways to have an optimal sleep life, including bedding materials designed to ensure you get the sleep you need. An example of such is the DORMU Cooler weighted blanket, it’s made of materials that encourage a balance between your sleep quality and quantity.