You may have heard that doctors recommend 7-8 hours of sleep every day to keep your mind and body functioning at their peak. But more recently, another argument that is doing the rounds is, is it only the duration that matter? How about the quality of sleep? Many doctors today consider the ability to get a night’s worth of sound sleep to be a better indicator of health than the hours you spend sleeping.
Sleep Duration –
Sleep duration is not constant. It changes with your age. For example, infants sleep away the whole day. As you grow older, you sleep for fewer hours. Another factor that influences your sleep duration is stress. Anxiety and worries do not allow you to sleep for long stretches of time. You might find yourself waking up frequently or tossing and turning in bed. So, even if you get 6 or seven hours of sleep, you would still feel drained and groggy on waking up
The time you spend in front of your computer screen or on your phone too negatively impacts your sleep duration. Most people are on social media or watch a web series when they turn in for the night. It pumps cortisol and adrenaline- the stress hormones into their system, which may keep sleep at bay. That is why the amount of hours you are in bed is not equivalent to the duration of sleep.
Even, the temperature has a say in how many hours of shut-eye you are likely to get tonight.
Another reason you have no power over how many hours of sleep you pack in every day is the circadian rhythm. All of us are equipped with an internal clock called the circadian rhythm, which hates surprises or upsets and wants us to stick to a fixed routine. Circadian rhythm requires you to be diurnal- stay awake during the day and sleep all throughout the night. But, for many people, it is impossible to adhere to that routine. Many of us have to work night shifts. This messes up their sleep hours.
Because there are so many factors that can affect sleep duration, scientists do not attach much importance to it.
Quality of Sleep –
Sleep quality is essentially uninterrupted sleep. It is actually the quality that determines how well you will be able to function the next day. When you sleep soundly and uninterrupted, your brain is able to flush out the wastes that had been accumulating in the cells during the day. When your sleep is disturbed, your brain can’t cleanse itself. If this goes on for a period of time, psychological ailments like forgetfulness, dementia or Alzheimer’s may set in.
Untroubled sleep also helps with your cognitive abilities and speeds up learning, storing of data and recollection.
Few Ways You Can Enhance Your Sleep Quality –
- Stay away from cell phones/laptops when you go to bed
- Don’t go to bed too late
- Dim the lighting of your room
- Eat at least an hour before going to bed
- Don’t read an e-book, opt for a physical one
- Do a few stretching exercises at night to relax your muscles
- Work-out in the evening to release all the excess energy
- Take a refreshing shower before going to bed
- Essential oils, especially lavender, promote sleep
The number of hours of sleep you get every night is sometimes beyond your control. But you can try to improve your quality of sleep because eventually the quality of sleep trumps quantity. Employ the above-mentioned tips to enhance sleep quality and if they don’t work, consider consulting a doctor.