You know that getting to bed on time can do wonders for your health, both mentally and physically. Sleep can help improve your mood and energy level, and make you feel sharper and more focused. It can also help level out—or even lower—your blood pressure.
But to gain these rewards, you need to do more than just log hours. You need to determine whether the sleep you’re getting is of a high-enough quality, and for that, you’ll want to keep track of these three critical factors:
Sleeping Versus Time in Bed
Just because you’re under the blankets does not necessarily mean you’re racking up those precious energy-restoring minutes. High-quality sleep is defined, in part, by being asleep for at least 85 percent of the time you are in bed. That means limiting laptop use and cutting out watching TV in bed, since these activities may make it harder to relax and drift off at night. Consider reserving time in bed for just two things: sleep and sex.
Falling Asleep Quickly
If you’re able to zonk out in short order once your head hits the pillow, you are on your way to quality sleep. Experts say that the ability to fall asleep in 30 minutes or less is a good indication that your sleep quality is high. If this is a struggle for you, work on a relaxing pre-bed routine, such as a warm bath, light snack, and quiet reading to ease the transition into sleep.
Waking Up Only Once
Many people trudge out of bed for a drink of water or to use the bathroom at night. But if you’re up repeatedly and awake for more than 20 minutes in one night, you need to examine your sleep habits. Practice going to sleep and rising in the morning at the same time, keep the room dark and cool at night, and strive to get some exercise every day. You’ll also want to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and big meals as well as power down your electronic devices at least an hour before bed.