When it comes to getting enough sleep, it’s your sleep quality that determines how rested you are.
If you ask someone how well they slept, they’ll usually respond by sharing the number of hours they slept. However, it’s sleep quality, not sleep quantity, that has the biggest impact on how rested we are, says Sanjiv Patel, MD, a sleep expert with Mercy Health. “You can suffer from sleep deprivation after sleeping nine hours the night before.”
Sleep deprivation is a serious issue for us all. Survey responses show that more than 50 percent of us have suffered from sleep deprivation. 20 percent even reported that they have fallen asleep at the wheel at some point in their lives.
“It is estimated that 100,000 car accidents each year are caused by sleep deprivation,” says Dr. Patel. “That is the second highest reason for accidents.”
As we age, our sleep becomes more fragmented. We spend more time in the lighter stages of sleep. Some of us may take naps to feel rested during the day. Dr. Patel says that naps are OK, but should last only 20 – 30 minutes. Any longer and they may affect the quality of our nighttime sleep, including how much time we spend in REM sleep.
The amount of REM sleep we achieve determines how rested we feel. It also affects our memory. Dr. Patel explains that it is during REM sleep that short term memories transition to long term memories.
“Being aware of and thinking about the quality of your sleep is important,” Dr. Patel says. “If you don’t feel rested, talk with your doctor. Lack of sleep can result in stress, anxiety and depression – all conditions that can take a toll on your physical and mental health.”
Here are some additional tips to help with your quality of sleep:
- Avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for four to six hours before bedtime.
- Create a quiet, cool and dark environment to promote better sleep. For some, creating white noise is helpful. For others, blackout curtains do the trick.
- Use light and natural rhythms to your advantage. Go to bed when your body tells you that you are ready, and try to rise at the same time as natural light creeps in.
- Lighten up late-night food and drink intake. You want to stay hydrated enough so that you don’t wake up thirsty, while also not being woken to use the restroom. If you must eat a snack late at night, try eating dairy or carbohydrates which interfere less with sleep.
- Use exercise to your advantage. Exercise stimulates brain activity which is great in the morning, but can keep you awake at night. Make sure exercise is finished at least three hours before going to bed.
For more information, visit mercy.com or call 513-952-5000 to find a physician near you.