Support your mental health by focusing on THIS aspect of your sleep

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mental-health-sleep(NaturalHealth365) Most of us can understand firsthand how sleeping for too little – or even too long – can hurt our health.  But a new study suggests that the quality of a person’s sleep might actually have more of an impact on their well-being than quantity.

The study, published this month in Frontiers in Psychology, asked over 1,100 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 to respond to survey questions about their lifestyle and mental health, including whether they experienced symptoms of depression.  Let’s look at the results.

Surprisingly, sleep quantity is NOT the most important factor of sleep to improve mental health, especially for young adults

The researchers, based out of New Zealand, conducted an online survey to investigate “the associations between sleep, physical activity, and dietary factors as predictors of mental health and well-being in young adults.”  They found that sleep quality “significantly outranked” sleep quantity in predicting a person’s mental health and overall well-being.

Specifically, people who reported higher quality sleep were significantly less likely to experience depressive symptoms.  Such a “robust” correlation remained even after researchers controlled for confounding factors.  One possible limitation of this study is the “non-validated” way the researchers assessed sleep quality.  That is, the researchers asked respondents to rate how refreshed they felt on a scale of 0 (never refreshed) to 4 (very refreshed) when they wake up in the morning instead of actually evaluating biological or physiological evidence for sleep quality (which can be done during something like a scientific sleep study).

However, the researchers do cite in their paper earlier evidence suggesting that feeling refreshed after rest can be an indicator of high-quality sleep, so if we agree on this premise – and trust the validity of these self-reported measurements – then the results likely still offer some important insights.

Does this mean that people can go ahead and skimp out on a few extra hours of sleep so long as they ensure the sleep they do get is high quality?  Not so fast.  Sleep quantity was still the second most important factor for predicting well-being.  In fact, sleeping for fewer than eight hours or more than twelve hours on average per night was associated with a greater likelihood of depressive symptoms and low well-being.

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In other words: quality and quantity matter when it comes to sleep – just don’t think that hours on the clock are all that matter when it comes to getting sufficient rest.

By the way: regular physical activity and the consumption of raw fruits and veggies were considered “secondary but significant” factors that also promoted greater well-being.

BAD idea: Here are the top five things that ruin your sleep quality, according to science

Go ahead, ask yourself:

Do you feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning?  If you use an alarm, do you wake up a minute or two before the alarm goes off feeling ready to get out of bed to start your day, or do you hit the snooze button?  Do you feel fatigued and foggy-brained during the day, even if you get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions, it’s possible that you’re not getting sufficient sleep quality for health – and your physical and mental well-being could be suffering.  Here are the top five killers of quality sleep:

  1. Substances (especially if consumed close to bedtime) including caffeine, alcohol, and certain medications like antidepressants or beta-blockers
  2. Late-night exposure to bright lights, and especially blue light from digital devices
  3. Stress
  4. Lack of physical activity during the day
  5. A bedroom temperature that’s too high (for better sleep, try setting the temperature to around 63 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit)

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