Sleep Quality v’s Quantity

Sleep Quality vs Quantity.

I will improve sleep quality (not just quantity).

Probably the most valuable currency of modern life is attention. The quality of attention that we bestow on another human being so they feel truly seen and heard is increasingly in short supply.

The second most valuable currency (okay, Top 5 for sure) would be sleep. Quality and quantity of sleep. It would be rare to meet anyone who wouldn’t give a big “Hell Yes” to the question, “Would you like 2-hours additional sleep a week?” or who is not carrying some sort of a sleep debt around beneath the artfully applied Touche Eclat.

Our bedtime is what sets us up for the quantity of sleep we are going to get – that’s just maths. You go to bed at x time; get up at y time; therefore possible maximum sleep is z hours. And that is what we all tend to focus on, the quantity of sleep. Trouble is, this is hard to move given how many responsibilities people are juggling.

The easier gains I am finding are to be had in the area of sleep quality. Here are a couple of tips for improving your sleep quality:

  1. Knock the booze on the head a few more nights of the week. I know, I know. Annoying, but I have to say I have been amazed at how well this works. I haven’t got the space here to go into all the ins and outs of it, but basically even a fairly small amount of alcohol disrupts your deep sleep / REM sleep quality in the second half of the night (we tend to drop off quicker, but the second half of sleep is more disrupted): hence feeling a bit slow and groggy in the morning. The “just one or two” glasses of wine / G & T’s DO make a difference. The clarity of waking up after consecutive booze-free days has blown away members of my Life Coaching Academy who have tried it as an experiment. This is not about cutting our parties and occasions, just the one or two small ones of an evening whilst cooking. Personally, I have found I am actually needing less quantity of sleep (about 45 mins less) as the quality of sleep is so much improved. If you want to improve sleep quality quickly, this is a remarkably easy fix.
  2. If you find it hard to drop off to sleep then improve your sleep quality by having a bath or a shower before bed. If you think about it we do this with babies and children as standard. The whole bath time routine that is the signal that it’s night time and to calm them down before hopefully a whole night’s unbroken sleep (it could happen, right?). That bath time effect works on adults too. A warm shower or bath before bed artificially raises your body temperature, which means it drops more quickly than usual when you slip between the sheets, telling your brain that it’s time to go to sleep now. It really works to improve your sleep quality. Try it and see how you feel in the morning.
  3. Final sleep tip for you is a quantity tip. Getting an extra hour’s sleep a night is hard for most adults: we are busy and there is stuff to do in the evenings, chores, social stuff, connecting with loved ones and so on. Going to bed a whole hour earlier when you might only get home from work or the gym at 8 pm is not an appealing thought and, frankly, it’s pretty hard to do (yep, we have experimented with that too)… but… going to bed just 15 minutes earlier? That’s easy. How do you do it? Where do you find the extra 15 minutes? You eliminate the “Faffing About Time”. The aimlessly checking Instagram for no reason in particular. The starting the new episode when you know you are not going to see it through to the end. The random tidying of stuff that doesn’t matter. The going up and down the stairs for different things rather than just cleaning your teeth and getting into bed. We all have 15 minutes of Faffing About Time we can cut out without feeling any pain. And, if you do that…. boom: you gain just under 2-hours of sleep a week. A hundred more sleep hours a year. The equivalent of 12 and a half extra full nights’ sleep a year! Just from cutting out your fifteen minutes of faff.

Twelve and a half extra nights sleep a year? You are welcome.

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