Main Street Recommends

The Importance of Good Sleep

By Published On: January 30th, 2024

Anyone who knows me knows that there’s nothing I love more than a good night’s sleep. I’m talking at least seven hours – at the minimum. At the ripe old age of 22, you can usually find me tucked in bed no later than 11 p.m. (unless it’s a Friday or a Saturday) and I will stay snug as a bug in a rug until my alarm goes off at 7 a.m. the following day. 

We know that getting enough sleep is important, but the quality of your sleep is also something to consider. Is higher quality sleep for less time better than lower quality sleep for a longer time? Let’s find out. 

What is good sleep?

Healthy sleep, as defined by the National Library of Medicine, is “when you fall asleep quite easily, do not fully wake up during the night, do not wake up too early, and feel refreshed in the morning… not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, and quality of sleep is different in different phases of life.”

When we’re super busy in life, sleep is one of the first things we tend to cut back on. However, not getting enough sleep regularly can put you at increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke – and the list goes on and on.

According to the National Library of Medicine, there are two main types of sleep: REM sleep and non-REM sleep. REM is “rapid eye movement,” which describes the fast eye movements that are observed during deep sleep. 

REM and non-REM sleep occur in each sleep cycle, which “usually repeats every 90 to 110 minutes.” Each sleep cycle is typically made up of four phases. According to the National Library of Medicine, “phase 1 is very light sleep, where you are drifting in and out of consciousness and are easily woken. In phase 2, the functioning of the brain slows down but there are still short bursts of activity. Phases 3 and 4 are the deep sleep phases. You dream in phase 4. When this phase ends, you sleep more lightly again before a new full sleep cycle starts.”

The amount of sleep you need per night changes as you age. School-age children need at least nine hours per night, while teenagers typically need between eight and ten. The average adult needs at least seven hours or more each night. 

So, how do you know if you’re getting quality sleep? You’ll fall asleep relatively easily – within 30 minutes of going to bed – wake up no more than once during the night, sleep for the number of hours recommended for your age group, and will wake up feeling rested and energized in the morning. 

Ways to improve your sleep 

  • Going to bed at or around the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning 
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Everyone is different, but generally speaking, the best temperature to keep your bedroom at is between 60 and 65 degrees. 
  • Limiting screen time before bed 
  • Not eating or drinking anything one to two hours prior to bedtime 
  • Exercise during the day! Expending excess energy during the day can help you fall asleep quicker and more easily at night.

What about naps? 

The jury is still out regarding naps. Some studies say that napping two to three times a week can be good for heart health, while some say that naps are evidence of inadequate sleep at night. 

In an article with Healthline, Dr. Sujay Kansagra, a sleep health expert and associate professor at Duke Medical Center, stated that “as long as a person doesn’t have issues with insomnia, there’s nothing wrong with napping.” 

He recommends that naps are either between 20 and 30 minutes, or extended completely to 90 minutes. He said that this is because, “‘waking up in between these times may lead to grogginess since the body gets into the deeper stages of sleep during that time. The nap will still be beneficial, but you may not feel so great right upon waking up.’” 

Final thoughts 

Don’t skimp out on a good night’s sleep! It can be tempting to sacrifice your sleep schedule when you have a lot going on, but ensuring that you’re getting enough quality rest at night will only help you during your waking hours.