What is a good night’s sleep? Like a good meal: it depends…
- By matnedelec
- On 26/05/2020
What do you consider to be a good night’s sleep?
What if a good night’s sleep for you were to fall asleep easily and remain in Morpheus’ arms until the gentle sound of your alarm-clock goes off? Or rather dream vividly and when you wake up get the answer to the question that has been gnawing at you for such a long time, in the easiest possible way? Or even wake up in the early morning, realise with pleasure that you still have the freedom of lying in bed, and put yourself in snooze mode for another few hours? To this easy-looking question, there are a multitude of possible answers. Answers that might be as diverse and different to the following one: for you, what is a good meal? I suggest we apply the analogy of a good night’s sleep to a good meal. Let’s consider for a moment the experience of a nice dinner. Surely, elements such as the quantity and quality of food contribute to feeling satisfied. If some of you enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet, others focus more on the quality of the products. The sleep quantity (number of hours of sleep per night) as well as its quality also contribute to feeling satisfied by a good night’s sleep. But that is not everything. To enjoy a nice dinner, the presentation of the dish, the price or even the atmosphere are other elements to take into consideration. If some of you are looking for a restaurant dinner, others would prefer a home-cooked meal… In the same way, our sleeping environment contributes to good sleep quality. Finally, feeling satisfied by a night’s sleep cannot be reduced to the quantity and quality of your sleep. A good night’s sleep is the sum of multiple components: 1) its subjective quality; 2) sleep onset latency or the time required to fall asleep; 3) how long it lasts; 4) the efficiency of your sleep; 5) possible disruptions during the night; 6) possible medication intake; 7) difficulties encountered during wake time. Thanks to this questionnaire, you will be able to seriously assess your sleep and understand where you’re at. And then follow up on your progress, month after month. Defining a good night’s sleep is pretty complex, and the retained definition varies from person to person. These seven components are measured by a questionnaire called the “Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index” or PSQI which evaluates your sleeping patterns throughout the last month. In the meantime, for those of you who wish to control their sleep, a multitude of solutions and strategies exist which can help improve the quality of your sleep. And to stretch the analogy, the need or the act of napping does not say much about your overall satisfaction in relation to your nocturnal sleep, just as snacking after a meal does not necessarily mean that you did not enjoy it!
Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.