Quality sleep is better than quantity of sleep

JAMESTOWN — Don’t think your body is fully rested just because a full eight hours passed from the time you hit your bed at night until your alarm clock went off the next morning.

The amount of sleep a person gets plays a significant role in their overall health, but one local nurse practitioner said it’s important to consider how sleep is measured.

“Adequate sleep can have a positive impact on a person’s health, but only if the sleep is good quality,” said Rhoda Chamberlain, FNP, with Jamestown Family Medicine. “How many hours a person has spent in bed is not a good measurement.”

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests that a person evaluate different factors such as how they fall asleep and how often they wake up during the night. An easy way to measure quality sleep is to consider the following:

The time it takes to get to sleep — High-quality sleep is achieved when you are able to fall asleep within 30 minutes of getting into bed. If this isn’t you, you’re not alone. According to the NSF, as many as 27 percent of people take longer than a half hour to fall asleep.

The number of times you wake up — Sleep is best when it is only interrupted once during the night for something necessary like a quick bathroom run. Waking up more than once disrupts the normal sleep cycle and can leave a person feeling sluggish the following day.

The percentage of time you actually sleep — You may head to bed at 10 p.m., but that doesn’t mean you go right to sleep. Experts suggest that at least 85 percent of a person’s time in bed should be devoted to actually sleeping. To determine your percentage, the NSF suggests the following formula: Take the total amount of time you spent in bed (in minutes) and subtract the number of minutes it took to fall asleep plus the minutes you spent awake throughout the night. This equals your total sleep time. Divide sleep time by total time in bed to determine your percentage.

“There are other signs that may point to whether you are experiencing quality sleep,” said Chamberlain, who practices with Premier Physician Network. “Think about how you feel upon waking and throughout the day. If you feel refreshed and alert then chances are your body is getting the type of sleep it needs.”

There are times when it’s natural for your body to fight for quality sleep. Lifestyle changes or major life-altering events can have a significant impact on sleep.

“People can struggle with falling or staying asleep when something big is going on in their life,” Chamberlain said. “Many times it can be something like starting a new job, approaching a big test or trying to process the death of a loved one. Medications, such as steroids, can also alter sleep.”

Simple lifestyle changes can help improve sleep. Look for ways to incorporate regular exercise into your day even if it means several brief walks, and keep a close eye on the type of foods being consumed in late afternoon or evening.

“I love a good cup of coffee in the morning because it helps keep me alert during the day, but caffeine from coffee in the evening can certainly affect our ability to wind down for bed,” Chamberlain said.