You've heard it time and time again: Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. But when it comes to catching zzz's, it's not just about the number of hours you log in bed. The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity—meaning getting your requisite eight hours isn't going to matter if it wasn't "good" sleep. (This is a common problem. One-third of women are not getting enough quality shut-eye, according to recent data from the CDC.) But what exactly does "good" sleep mean? Science has answers: The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recently released a report, published in Sleep Health, which laid out the key indicators of quality shut-eye.
"In the past, we defined sleep by its negative outcomes including sleep dissatisfaction, which were useful for identifying underlying pathology," said contributor Maurice Ohayon, M.D, Ph.D., director of the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center, in a press release. "Clearly this is not the whole story. With this initiative, we are now on a better course towards defining sleep health."
Here, the four key components of a "good night's sleep" as determined by the sleep experts.
1. You don't work in your bed
Thanks to portable tablets and phones, our beds have become de facto couches. But Netflix binges and texting your best friend don't count as restorative rest for your body. The NSF recommends that at least 85 percent of the total time you spend in your bed is actually spent snoozing. If you absolutely must use your phone in bed, try these 3 tricks to use tech in bed an still sleep soundly.
2. You fall asleep in 30 minutes or less
Nearly one-third of people take longer than half an hour to fall asleep each night, according to the NSF's annual Sleep in America poll. Taking this long to conk out is one of the hallmarks of insomnia and other sleep disorders, they explain. Lots of things can affect your ability to fall asleep—anxiety, depression, exercising too close to bedtime, not getting enough daytime exercise, sunlight, and eating junk food in the evening, just to name a few. So it's important to figure out what's keeping you up and fix it. (Check out these six sneaky things that might be keeping you awake.)
3. You wake up no more than once per night
Nothing is more frustrating than going to bed on time and blissfully drifting off to dreamland... only to be awakened in the middle of the night. Some disturbances you have no control over, such as a baby crying or your cat sitting on your pillow. But if you're waking up for no apparent reason or are easily awakened by normal noises more than once per night, it's a sign your sleep life is hurting.
4. You don't wake up for more than 20 minutes during the night
When you do wake up in the middle of the night, how long do you stay awake? Some people can slip right back into sleep after making sure that startling noise wasn't a burglar, but others are tossing and turning for the rest of the night. If it takes you more than 20 minutes to go back to sleep, whatever the reason you woke up, your quality of sleep is bound to suffer. Try these tips to fall back to sleep quickly. And if those don't work, check out this list of the best natural sleep aids.