We all want to get the best quality sleep possible, but do you really know what that means?

For some people, it’s probably falling asleep faster with less time spent tossing and turning or fretting over worries for the next day.

For others, it’s better sleep through the night without waking up every few hours.

Everyone suffers from varying degrees of sleep disturbances, but it’s important to address those so you can get the best quality sleep possible. Below, we’re going to take a look at what that “best quality sleep” really is, and give you some tips on how you can improve your life to sleep better starting today!

What is the Best Quality Sleep?

For many people, the measure of sleep quality often comes down to quantity. If they can sleep for a solid 8-9 hours a night, they feel like they’re getting really good sleep.

Let’s be clear: quantity absolutely matters! If you sleep for less than 6 hours, you’re going to be sliding into the “sleep deprived” category. For most people, 6 ½ to 8 ½ hours of sleep per night is the “average” required to be considered healthy sleep. Getting more sleep definitely is something to take into account when evaluating how healthy your sleep habits are.

But quantity isn’t quite as important as quality. You can spend 12 hours a night in bed, but if you’re not sleeping for enough of those hours, then you’re not really getting the “best quality sleep” possible.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are four factors that determine the quality of your sleep.

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    How fast you fall asleep. To be considered healthy sleep, you need to fall asleep in 30 minutes or less. That means 30 minutes from the time you put down your book or phone, turn off the lights, and close your eyes. If you’re falling asleep within half an hour of that point, then you’ve got at least one factor of good quality sleep.

  2. How often you wake up during the night.  Most people wake up during the night—to shift their positions, adjust their blanket or pillow, use the bathroom, drink water, and the list goes on. However, for your sleep to be considered good quality, you should wake up no more than once per night. Any more, and it’s considered a sleep disturbance.

  3. How much time you spend awake during the night.  Sometimes, you wake up for a few seconds but can quickly go back to sleep without disturbance. However, there are other times that you wake up during the night and end up tossing and turning trying to get back to sleep. If you spend less than 20 minutes awake during the night, then it’s considered good quality sleep. Any more, and you are headed for sleep disturbances.

  4. How much of the time you spend in bed is spent sleeping. As long as more than 85% of the time you spend in bed is spent sleeping, it’s considered “healthy”. However, for those who lay awake at night or early in the morning but don’t get up, it’s more likely that you’re suffering from sleep problems.

These four factors determine how well you sleep. The amount of time you spend sleeping each night is important, but more important still is the quality of that sleep during those hours. If you’re not quite meeting all four of these criteria, it means you’re not getting healthy sleep and need to take steps to address whatever is causing the disturbances. 

How to Get the Best Quality Sleep

Here are some things you can do to sleep better:

Spend more time in the sun and bright lights. Getting more bright light exposure during the day will help to balance out your sleep hormones, ensuring that once the sun sets and darkness falls, you’ll start feeling sleepy.

Avoid caffeine. A lot of people who drink coffee suffer from sleep disturbances because of the effects caffeine has on your central nervous system. If you can, cut coffee completely from your life. Otherwise, make sure to avoid drinking coffee after 2 PM.

Nap smart. If you need a midday nap, make it a 20-minute power nap. This gives your mind and body a rest but prevents you from falling into deeper sleep stages—which could interrupt your sleep patterns.

Limit alcohol intake.  Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and help you fall asleep, but it will seriously interfere with healthy sleep quality and trigger a number of sleep disturbances. Try to drink earlier in the evening so the effects wear off by the time you get to bed.

Follow a sleep schedule. Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day is an excellent way to train your body to sleep when you want it to and wake up when you need it to.

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Avoid night eating. Have dinner earlier in the evening so your body has plenty of time to digest before it’s time to get in bed. If you’re going to have something before bed, make it a very light snack (100-200 calories) to avoid activating your digestive system and waking you up.

Try a supplement. Valerian root, gingko biloba, lavender, magnesium, and glycine can all help you sleep, and are supplements you may want to consider taking. Or try Sleep Slim Tea, a fully organic and vegan-friendly sleep tea that will help you fall asleep faster, encourage better sleep quality, and, as a bonus, help you burn calories overnight!

All of these tips will help to improve your sleep habits and bring you one step closer toward having the best quality sleep possible.