What is good sleep?
Early to bed, early to rise! Makes a career queen effective, healthy and wise. And that isn’t just an Instagram-worthy quote. Good sleep is important… It’s a physiological fact! According to some studies, a third of us drag ourselves out of bed feeling tired and groggy, due to bad sleep habits and patterns. And adults who get less than seven hours of sleep a night on a regular basis have an increased risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Weight gain
Based on this, I believe that it’s incredibly important for everyone to understand:
- What “good sleep” is (Part 1)
- Why your body needs it (Part 2)
- How to identify different types of sleep disorders (Part 3)
- How to develop sleep time habits (Part 4)
Characteristics of Good Sleep
1. Falling asleep within 30 minutes
A good starting point would be how long it takes you to fall asleep. Falling asleep within an average of 30 minutes or less of getting into bed is deemed to be ideal. However, this is influenced by the environment in which you fall asleep, as well as your energy, mood and health. For a career woman, falling asleep might need to be intentional and scheduled (we will cover this in Part 3 of this series!).
2. Sleeping through the night
Being able to sleep through the night, waking up no more than once per night, is a sign of a sleeping well. This could differ based on other factors such as noise levels, whether you are a nursing mother, and varying degrees of nocturia. Nocturia is a condition in which an individual wakes up from sleep more than once a night to urinate. It can be caused by several things from lifestyle (caffeine, alcohol, salt and water intake), to medical conditions. Therefore, it’s important to figure out if you have any avoidable disruptors of sleep so you can work on eliminating them.
3. Returning to sleep fairly quickly
If sleep is interrupted, experts suggest that being able to fall back asleep within 20 minutes is also a good sign. A full night of sleep is made up of four to six sleep cycles of light, deep, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Deep sleep mostly happens early in the night. While REM and light sleep occur in the morning — making it easier to wake up from. Waking up in the middle of the night could mean that you haven’t achieved deep sleep.
4. Waking up feeling rested
This is the best bit! Waking up feeling rested, rejuvenated, alert and energised is the goal. Whether from a nap or a night’s sleep, sleeping well will not have you feeling tired, sleep deprived or groggy. That heavy feeling after a bad sleep is called sleep inertia. Sleep inertia could last minutes to hours. However, it could also be quite severe with some people experiencing confusion or sleep drunkenness.
Genetics and context matter
Recent studies have identified that sleep habits and patterns are a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Yes, sleep traits can be inherited and familial sleep disorders do exist. Some genetic mutations can affect how much sleep you need, when you need to sleep, and how your body responds to sleep deprivation. So it’s important to keep an eye on your patterns of sleep and any similarities that may exist in your nuclear and extended family.
Coming up in the series
It’s important to be able to distinguish good sleep from bad sleep. And how sleep contributes to your health and wellbeing. So, in the next part of this series, we will cover the reasons your body needs to be well rested. In the meantime, you may want to check out this article about with advice for anyone that’s feeling overwhelmed.
Dr. Helen Zidon is the Deputy Head of Medical Information at Aspen Pharma Group, where she oversees the medical information functions of Aspen territories globally for multiple widely used pharmaceutical products. She is a public speaker and advocate for Global and Public Health, accessible and streamlined medical care, and the incorporation of Medical Technology in medical academia and medical practice.