Sleep Quality vs Quantity: 5 Lifestyle and Natural Remedies for Getting More Deep Sleep

written by Dr. Bolanle Aina - May 13, 2024

Sleep Quality vs Quantity: 5 Lifestyle and Natural Re

When it comes to achieving optimal health, the importance of your sleep cannot be overstated. According to researchers at the Department Of Psychology, Bradley University, Illinois, sleep is not just about how long you sleep each night; the quality of sleep is equally—if not more—critical.

While sleep quantity simply measures how many hours you spend asleep, sleep quality assesses how restorative those hours are. This includes factors such as how quickly you fall asleep, the continuity and efficiency of sleep, alignment with circadian rhythms, and the level of alertness during waking hours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended amount of sleep varies by age group, ranging from 14-17 hours for newborns to 7-8 hours for adults over 65. Yet, despite these guidelines, an estimated 35.2% of American adults sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night, highlighting a widespread issue with sleep quantity.

However, enhancing sleep quality can compensate to some extent for a lesser amount, as it ensures that the sleep one does get is genuinely refreshing, marked by rapid sleep onset, minimal nighttime awakenings, and high sleep efficiency.

The Importance of Deep Sleep

Deep sleep, a critical component of overall sleep quality, is essential for various bodily restoration processes, including muscle growth, tissue repair, and protein synthesis. It plays a significant role in consolidating memories and processing information.

Lack of deep sleep not only impairs these functions but is also linked to long-term health consequences such as weight gain, increased disease risk, and diminished mental and physical performance.

Latest research, like this paper from North Dakota State University, indicates that lifestyle adjustments and natural remedies can significantly enhance sleep quality. Simple changes like regulating sleep schedules to align with your circadian rhythm, optimizing bedroom environments, and modifying dietary habits can improve sleep. Additionally, certain natural supplements may also promote improved sleep, offering a holistic approach to enhancing sleep quality.

Stages of Sleep:

Sleep is a complex and dynamic process that involves multiple stages, each essential for mental and physical restoration. Here's a detailed look at these stages:

1. NREM Stage 1 (Transition to Sleep): This stage is a bridge from wakefulness to sleep, lasting about 5-10 minutes. This stage is characterized by:

• The brain produces high-amplitude theta waves.

• Heartbeat, eye movements, and breathing slow down.

• Muscles relax with occasional twitches.

• Awareness: If awakened, one might feel like they were never asleep.

2. NREM Stage 2 (Deepening Sleep): Lasting about 20 minutes per cycle, this stage constitutes about half of the sleep duration. Findings in this stage include:

• Awareness of surroundings decreases.

• Body temperature drops and eye movements cease.

• Breathing and heart rate stabilize.

• The brain produces sleep spindles—bursts of brain activity important for memory consolidation.

3. NREM Stage 3 (Deep Sleep): Known for slow delta waves, this stage is crucial for physical restoration. What is unique to this stage of sleep and makes it so important than the rest?

• Muscles are completely relaxed.

• Blood pressure drops, and breathing slows.

• Deepest sleep phase; environmental noises rarely cause awakening.

• Often involves sleepwalking, particularly in children and young adults.

• Memory Consolidation: Focuses on declarative memories such as facts, knowledge, and personal experiences.

4. REM Sleep (Active Sleep): Begins about 90 minutes after falling asleep. REM sleep is characterized by:

• Brain activity resembles wakefulness.

• The body becomes immobilized, preventing the acting out of dreams.

• Breathing is faster and irregular, and eyes move rapidly.

• Vivid dreams occur.

• Memory and Emotion Processing: Crucial for emotional memory consolidation and learning.

Each of these stages plays a unique role in maintaining overall health and well-being, making uninterrupted progression through them essential for optimal functioning during wakefulness.

Sleep Quality vs. Sleep Quantity:

While the quantity of sleep—how many hours we get—is crucial, the quality of our sleep can tell even more about our overall health. Quality encompasses several factors: the ease with which we fall asleep, the number of times we wake up during the night, and the percentage of the sleep cycle spent in each stage.

Achieving high-quality sleep means spending adequate time in deep and REM stages, which is crucial for cognitive function and physical health. A higher quality sleep offers the following advantages:

• Restorative Sleep

High-quality sleep allows the body to undergo necessary therapeutic processes that cannot be replaced by merely increasing sleep duration.

• Reduced Sleep Disruptions

Continuous, uninterrupted sleep cycles are more beneficial than fragmented sleep, regardless of total sleep time.

• Improved Daytime Alertness

Quality sleep enhances cognitive function and physical energy levels during waking hours, unlike mere sleep duration, which may not fully alleviate tiredness if the sleep is poor quality.

• Enhanced Health Outcomes

Good sleep quality is linked to better health markers and reduced risk of chronic conditions, unlike extended poor-quality sleep, which does not offer these benefits.

The Health Dangers of Sleep Deprivation:

Sleep deprivation, i.e., Chronic lack of sleep, doesn't just make you tired; it can lead to serious health issues. Heart diseases like coronary heart disease, for instance, have been closely linked with poor sleep. Insufficient rest elevates cortisol and inflammation markers, which strain the heart and can lead to chronic conditions such as elevated blood pressure, stroke or heart attacks. In addition, people with obstructive sleep apnea may find it difficult to get a good night's sleep regardless of how long they sleep.

Similarly, sleep deprivation can disrupt insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, heightening the risk of type 2 diabetes. Consistently missing sleep can alter hormones that regulate appetite, leading to weight gain and increased diabetes risk.

Furthermore, the impact of sleep deprivation on mental health is profound. Poor sleep is associated with increased stress, depression, and other mental health disorders. It can exacerbate symptoms of existing mental illnesses and decrease your overall sense of well-being.

Getting adequate restorative sleep is particularly important for people living with chronic conditions. It is therefore important for people taking medications for blood pressure, diabetes, and depression to take extra caution to ensure that quality of their sleep is maintained for optimal health.

Strategies for Deeper Sleep

1. Setting the stage for good sleep

Just as sleep occurs in stages, you need to set the stage for good sleep. For deep sleep, consider making key changes to your bedroom environment. A cool, quiet, dark environment helps signal your body that it's time to wind down. Maintaining a room temperature around 65°F (18°C) proves optimal for most people.

Additionally, you should aim to minimize light and noise with blackout curtains and white noise machines. Choose the right mattress and beddings for maximum comfort during sleep.

2. Establishing a Pre-Sleep Ritual

Engaging in a calming routine before bed can significantly enhance sleep quality. This might involve reading, stretching, or meditative practices. The key is consistency; a predictable wind-down routine helps cue your body that it's time to sleep, easing the transition into the night’s restorative stages.

3. Timing Meals and Drinks

What and when you eat can also impact your sleep quality. Avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Avoid caffeine and caffeinated drinks later in the day. Consider a light snack that includes an element of tryptophan, like yogurt or a banana, which may aid sleep. Incorporate calming herbs like chamomile, valerian root, or passionflower into your evening routine to ease stress and promote relaxation.

4. Incorporating Relaxation Techniques

Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery can prepare your mind and body for sleep. These practices not only help in quicker sleep onset but also in achieving deeper sleep cycles.

A shower or relaxing bath is another way to achieve better sleep. Studies show that they can help improve overall sleep quality and help people — especially older adults — fall asleep faster. If this is not practical enough for you and you don’t want to take a full bath at night, simply bathing your feet in warm water can help you relax and improve sleep.

5. Adapting to Natural Light

Daily exposure to natural light can significantly benefit your circadian rhythm. This is your body's internal clock that influences your brain, body, and hormones, determining when it's time to sleep or stay awake.

Sunlight during the day boosts daytime energy and enhances sleep quality and nighttime duration. Studies show that exposure to bright light during the daytime can improve sleep quality, increase sleep duration, and help individuals fall asleep faster.

Similar research in older adults suggests that two hours of bright light exposure can extend sleep by two hours and

increase sleep efficiency by 80%. Even for those with average sleep patterns, regular light exposure can be beneficial. If natural sunlight isn't an option, consider artificial bright light devices.

Conversely, exposure to blue light from screens, late in the night can disrupt your sleep by suppressing melatonin production. To counteract this, try wearing blue light-blocking glasses or apps like f.lux on your computer, which adjusts the screen's color temperature to reduce blue light. Also, avoid bright screens and switch off harsh lighting at least two hours before bed to help your body prepare for sleep.

To Wrap Up

This post emphasizes the vital role of sleep quality. By understanding the stages of sleep, from the light NREM Stage 1 to the intensive processes of REM sleep, we recognize the importance of each phase in physical restoration and mental resilience. Achieving deep, restorative sleep involves more than just extended hours; it requires a combination of a conducive environment, consistent pre-sleep routines, and mindful dietary habits.

Implementing natural remedies and lifestyle adjustments can enhance sleep quality significantly, leading to improved overall health, better daytime alertness, and overall well-being. Thus, prioritizing high-quality sleep could be the key to a healthier, more fulfilling life for you.



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While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. The article was written for information and educational purposes only. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.