Mind & Body

The 4 Qualities of a Good Night's Sleep, According to Sleep Experts

When it comes to staying healthy, everybody knows that "get a good night's sleep" is up there with "eat a balanced diet" and "get plenty of exercise." But what exactly is a "good night's sleep"? It didn't really have a medical definition — until 2017 when the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) published new recommendations in the journal Sleep Health.

What Makes Sleep "Good"?

You know when sleep is bad — you snore a lot, you toss and turn, maybe you do a bit of sleep-eating (no judgments here). But what makes it good has been a point of contention among sleep researchers. That's why the NSF assembled a panel of experts to define it. The panelists pored through nearly 300 studies on sleep quality, reviewing and discussing their findings with one another. Finally, they voted on which criteria they thought were good indicators of sleep quality.

Humans have been sleeping throughout our existence, so why announce this now? According to the press release, it's because we're finally at a point where average people can measure their sleep quality on their own. Activity trackers and other gadgets seamlessly track how long you're sleeping, along with other criteria such as how much you toss and turn and how often you wake during the night. The researchers wanted to give people a way to truly know what that data means.

The Four Criteria of Good Sleep

Without further ado, here are the qualities the panel thought categorized a good night sleep:

  1. It takes you no more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.
  2. You wake up no more than once.
  3. When you do wake up in the night, you're awake for no more than 20 minutes.
  4. You're asleep at least 85 percent of the time you're in bed.

What if your sleep doesn't stack up? The Mayo Clinic recommends several ways to get a better night's sleep. Sticking to a schedule, where you go to bed at the same time every night and do the same things before you retire, can help reinforce your body's sleep cycle. Diet, exercise, stress, and even your bedroom can have an effect as well. If you often have trouble sleeping, it might be worthwhile to contact your doctor.

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Discover more about catching zzz's in "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams" by Matthew Walker, Ph.D. The audiobook is free with an Audible trial. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Hamer February 2, 2017

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