Do you often feel tired and groggy in the morning, even on nights when you’ve gotten enough sleep? It’s a frustrating experience, but there may be a simple explanation: you have poor sleep quality. Poor sleep quality can impair your focus, worsen your mood, and is even linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Figuring out that you’re not getting enough sleep is easy. Figuring out why that sleep isn’t restful is trickier, but certainly achievable. Read on to learn the signs of lack of sleep, what could be causing your poor sleep quality, and how to improve it.
If you think you’re getting poor sleep, consider whether you possess any of these tell-tale signs:
Sleep quality is different from sleep quantity. Sleep quantity measures how much sleep you get each night, while sleep quality measures how well you sleep.
Measuring sleep quantity is simple, as it’s quick to determine if you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep per night (usually defined as 7-9 hours for adults). Measuring sleep quality is a little more of an art than a science. Generally, good sleep quality is defined by the following characteristics:
Any number of things could be contributing to your poor sleep quality. Some potential causes include poor sleep hygiene, stress, sleep apnea, or another chronic health condition or sleep disorder.
Poor sleep habits, like having an irregular sleep schedule or consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, can interfere with your sleep quality. In a study of nursing students, smoking and daily coffee consumption were two of the largest factors associated with poor sleep quality. Alcohol also disturbs your sleep, even though it’s considered a sedative.
Poor mental health, whether from increased stress or a depression or anxiety disorder, also contributes to poor sleep quality. Problematically, sleep deprivation and the resulting insomnia worsen these conditions, creating a vicious cycle.
Certain chronic health conditions are associated with poor sleep patterns and less sleep overall. These include chronic lung diseases, asthma, acid reflux, renal disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain. Unfortunately, as with stress and anxiety, poor sleep quality can exacerbate the symptoms and discomfort felt with these conditions.
A person with sleep apnea experiences temporary lapses in breathing during their sleep, resulting in gasping, choking, and snoring sounds. Even if they don’t consciously wake up, their brain has to kick start breathing again, disrupting sleep quality. Sleepiness and lack of energy are two of the most common complaints of individuals with sleep apnea.
Because they occur in your sleep, some sleep disorders go undiagnosed until a person seeks care for other symptoms like poor sleep quality, or a sleep partner alerts them to the symptoms. For example, individuals with periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) experience involuntary jerking movements in their legs while they sleep, resulting in reduced sleep quality, and fatigue and poor concentration during the day. Individuals with narcolepsy likewise often suffer from poor sleep quality, and experience daytime fatigue.
Fortunately, improving your sleep quality may be as simple as improving your sleep hygiene. Just like dental hygiene involves regularly brushing and flossing to maintain your teeth, sleep hygiene is all about practicing good habits that help you get good sleep consistently.
Try these ideas to improve your sleep.
If you still have trouble sleeping after implementing these suggestions, talk to your doctor. They may recommend other lifestyle changes, therapies, or medications that can improve your sleep quality.