How to Improve Your Sleep Quality?

Pietari Nurmi
Jan 02 · 4 min read

Getting enough sleep does not guarantee that the sleep you get is refreshing. Besides quantity, the quality of sleep matters a great deal. The term sleep quality can refer to many things, but essentially it is all about how restorative and refreshing your sleep is.

What Is Good Quality Sleep?

Sleep Stages in Balance

Sleep stages and the structure of sleep cycles are closely related to sleep quality. One measure of good sleep quality is that your sleep stages are in balance. That means that you get enough of all of the stages, including deep sleep, REM sleep, and light sleep, each night. In a healthy adult, deep sleep takes approximately one-fifth of the night. Around a quarter is spent in REM sleep, and the rest, over half of the night, goes for light sleep stages. However, many individual factors affect these measures, and what is the optimal ratio for you might not apply to someone else. Age, in particular, has a significant effect. Children score higher on deep sleep, whereas for older people, sleep tends to get lighter.

Sleep cycles follow their pattern, and you cannot intentionally increase the amount of deep sleep in the cycle, for instance. However, many daily choices you make affect the sleep stages and sleep cycle indirectly. Good sleeping habits and sleep-promoting practices help to maintain the natural balance between sleep stages. On the other hand, it is easy to rock the boat and impair your sleep quality with poor habits.

Sleep Stages During the Night
An average adult spends approximately one-fifth of the night in deep sleep and a quarter in REM sleep.
Uninterrupted Sleep Is Refreshing

The fewer disturbances and awakenings there is during the night, the better the quality of your sleep is. Continuous sleep is the most efficient and restorative. Waking up in the middle of the night interrupts the ongoing sleep cycle forcing it to start over from the beginning. Since the cycle always begins with light sleep, fragmented sleep gets more shallow than continuous sleep. This way, your body, and mind do not get a chance to recover properly from the previous day’s activities.

Not all nightly awakenings are bad. Some are part of the normal sleep cycle patterns. These brief awakenings typically appear between sleep cycles and during REM sleep. Usually, falling asleep again happens so quickly you won’t remember a thing in the morning. Fragmented sleep becomes a problem when the interruptions happen frequently, or it takes time to fall asleep after waking up. Since short interruptions might go unnoticed, it is sometimes difficult to see the connection between tiredness the next day and poor sleep quality the night before.

How to Improve Your Sleep Quality?

Even though every one of us stays up too late from time to time, it is easy to see why getting enough sleep is essential (you will figure it out next morning at the latest). Sleep quality is much harder to get your head around. Countless things could affect it, and it is often all but obvious which habits and practices promote good sleep and which can potentially harm it. For instance, physical exercise increases the amount of deep sleep and has a positive effect on your sleep quality overall. On the other end is, for example, alcohol, which significantly suppresses REM sleep and makes your sleep shallow and fragmented later at night.

Habits and practices that potentially affect your sleep quality and daily rhythm are commonly referred to as sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene is important for both keeping the sleep stages in balance and avoiding unnecessary interruptions in your sleep. Throughout the coaching, we will cover plenty of good sleep hygiene practices to improve your sleep quality.

Habits From This Lesson

Additional Reading

Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. Simon and Schuster.