Maybe you’ve heard the often-cited (and not-so-surprising) finding that one-third of American adults don’t get enough sleep. But recent research suggests that the number of adults falling short of sufficient shuteye could be much, much higher.
A new study published in Frontiers in Sleep surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. adults with questions about the quality of their sleep, known as the Restorative Sleep Questionnaire (REST-Q). Participants were asked whether their sleep the night before left them feeling “mentally alert,” “in a good mood,” or “energetic,” among other measures.
The result: 72% of respondents scored “low” or “somewhat” on restorative sleep, while only about one-third, or 28%, of respondents scored “high” on restorative sleep. These surprising findings demonstrate the converse of previous nationally representative data we have seen, says lead study author Dr. Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., who’s also an Oura advisor.
Plus, this study helps define what “restorative sleep” really means, Robbins notes, by focusing on quality vs. quantity of sleep. “By observing America’s sleep through the lens of feelings of restoration, we gain important insight into not only the duration of sleep, but qualitative evaluation of sleep and its impact on quality of life.” This also removes the drawbacks of focusing solely on “sleep duration,” which misses the fact that while some may get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep, they don’t feel refreshed or rested when they wake up.
How to Increase Restorative Sleep
If you’re among the groggy majority, there are a few ways you can improve the quality of your sleep.
Robbins’ top recommendation: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. Your body craves consistency, so maintaining regular sleep-wake times helps sync your circadian rhythms, making it easier to fall (and stay) asleep.
Also, remember that it takes most people at least 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep, so the time right before bed is critically important, Robbins says. Consider sleep latency — the time it takes for you to fall asleep — as part of the process, and tack on that extra amount to your overall time in bed.
Finally, creating a calming, wind-down routine can help improve your restorative sleep. Take a warm shower or bath, read a few pages of a book, forego electronics, or listen to a meditation or breathing exercise from the Explore tab in your Oura App.
About the Oura Expert
Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., is an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Associate Scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her research uses marketing and novel communication tools and technologies (i.e. smartphones and other mobile devices) to design persuasive behavior change interventions to improve sleep and circadian health. In 2011, Dr. Robbins co-authored Sleep for Success! with Dr. James B. Maas. Dr. Robbins’ research has appeared in the New York Times, the Financial Times, and Readers’ Digest, and she has appeared on The Today Show, Live! With Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, Fox Business News, ABC Nightline, CNBC, and CBS This Morning.