You know that sleep is vital to your physical and mental health. But, how can you tell whether you’re truly sleeping well? Especially if you work shifts, your sleep probably does not look exactly like other peoples’ sleep. It can be hard to measure your sleep patterns against those of the people around you.
On average, adults should optimally receive between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, but those needs vary individually. For example, some people feel best with eight consecutive hours of sleep, while others do well with six to seven hours at night and daytime napping. Some people feel okay when their sleep schedule changes, while others feel very affected by a new schedule or even one night of insufficient sleep.
Here are some statements about your sleep. If these apply to you, it’s a good sign that your sleep is on track. If you’re a shift worker and you don’t agree with many of these, it could mean that you need to make changes in your behaviors and routines to improve your sleep.
- You fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down to sleep.
- You regularly sleep a total of seven to nine hours in a 24-hour period.
- While in your bed, your sleep is continuous—you don’t have long periods of lying awake when you wish to be sleeping.
- You wake up feeling refreshed, as if you’ve “filled the tank.”
- You feel alert and are able to be fully productive throughout the waking hours (note, it’s natural for people to feel a dip in alertness during waking hours, but with healthy sleep, alertness returns).
- Your partner or family members do not notice any disturbing or out of the ordinary behavior from you while you sleep, such as snoring, pauses in breathing, restlessness, or otherwise nighttime behaviors.
Shift workers who try to sleep during the day often wake up after fewer than seven to nine hours, because of the alerting signals coming from their circadian system. This does not mean they don’t need seven to eight hours of sleep per day—it just means it’s harder to sleep during the day. Over time, this can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.