- Researchers say consistent quality sleep can help improve quality of life indicators such as happiness and wellbeing.
- They add the quality of sleep is more important than the length of sleep.
- Experts say you can achieve quality sleep by having consistent bedtime routines.
Quality sleep is more important to quality of life than the length of sleep.
That’s according to a study published today in the journal PLOS One in which researchers analyzed data from the annual Czech Household Panel Survey 2018-2020.
While past research has linked sleep quality to a person’s overall well-being, researchers said this is the first study to test the longer-term effects of social jet lag on quality of life and how changes in sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep timing impact an individual’s quality of life over the long term.
The study authors compared responses to questions covering life satisfaction, well-being, happiness, subjective health, and work stress alongside responses on self-reported sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep timing or “social jet lag.”
Social jet lag, according to the study authors, is when someone’s socially directed sleep rhythms and innate biological sleep rhythms are mismatched. This can happen when someone works night shifts or split shifts, for example.
The researchers said they found that sleep quality was significantly correlated with all five quality of life measures except work stress.
In other words, getting a quality night’s sleep can help improve life satisfaction, well-being, happiness, and subjective health.
The researchers added that neither sleep duration nor social jet lag showed any significant impact on quality of life over time.
The authors noted, however, that causes of social jet lag such as getting a new job with entirely different hours are infrequent occurrences and that the 3-year study time period may not be long enough to draw conclusions on the potential effects of shorter sleep durations and social jet lag.
They added that the COVID-19 pandemic may also have had an immeasurable impact on the final stage of results collections.
Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a neuropsychologist in New York City and director of Comprehendthemind.com, told Healthline that it is encouraging to see the effect of the quality of sleep on individual well-being, given that the study was done on a large population.
She noted that while we have long considered the ramification of poor sleep quality on both neurological and psychological functioning, the limitation of conducting one leg of the study, at least during the pandemic, does alter the significance because both individual and work lifestyles were so remarkably altered.
“Further, the Czech culture, while not entirely dissimilar, is not necessarily similar to that of the Americans, which always poses a question whether or not the results can be expanded to our lives,” she said.
Shelby Harris, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the director of sleep health with Sleepopolis, says getting quality and quantity sleep are both important to our overall quality of life.
“Routinely getting quality sleep is essential to our overall health and happiness,” she told Healthline.
“High-quality sleep is linked to an improved mood, better decision making skills, ability to process emotions, coordination, and a higher quality of life,” she said. “Poor or insufficient sleep can lead to problems with memory, cognitive processing, higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other serious physical and mental health issues.”
The American Psychological Association suggests consulting with a healthcare or mental healthcare provider if you’re experiencing sleeping issues persisting longer than a few weeks.
Hafeez explained that there are a number of reasons why someone may be getting poor sleep quality.
“Some people struggle with sleep on a level that is organic, structural, genetic, and chemical,” she said.
“Lifestyle factors such as smoking, weight gain, sleep apnea, stress, lack of exercise and psychosocial stressors, such as financial hardship, relationship problems, marital unhappiness, as well as health problems, can contribute greatly to both length and quality of sleep,” Hafeez added.
So what can you do? Experts offer these tips.
Keep it consistent
Consistency is key to improving your sleep quality, says Harris.
To improve on your sleep schedule consistency, she recommends trying to stick to approximately the same bed and wake times 7 days a week.
“A consistent sleep schedule can help improve your sleep quality and make it easier for you to fall asleep at night,” she explained.
Hafeez recommends going to bed early enough before cortisol spikes can also be beneficial, keeping a sleep diary, and, if you’re struggling to fall asleep at your set time, getting out of bed instead of tossing and turning.
Get some natural light
“It’s also important to get as much natural light as possible in the morning right after waking up,” says Harris.
She explains natural light will help you feel more awake in the morning and will also assist in regulating your circadian rhythm, helping you get better sleep.
Practice good sleep hygiene
Lastly, Harris recommends practicing good sleep hygiene.
This means trying to limit caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime, avoiding alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime, and limiting screens to 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
Hafeez adds that thinking anxiety-provoking thoughts at bedtime (which is common) can interfere with our best of intentions. In these cases, cognitive behavioral techniques, such as breathing, muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and meditation can help.
Harris says that if you are routinely struggling with the quality of your sleep, talk with a sleep specialist or doctor.
Hafeez adds that she often advises clients to seek out medical clarification by visiting a sleep clinic, or a neurologist, who specializes in sleep problems.