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The Benefits of Restorative Sleep

How much and how well you sleep make a substantial contribution to the quality of your long-term health. The amount of time spent in the restful or restorative sleep cycle is a primary indicator of the quality of sleep and insufficient restful sleep can result in health problems later in life. Although there are a wide range of electronic devices being offered to track sleep, accurately determining the duration of restful sleep can be difficult outside of a special sleep clinic. Basic sleep hygiene can help improve the quantity and quality of sleep.

What is Restful or Restorative Sleep?

During the restful sleep phase, brain waves slow down with brief periodic bursts of activity. Blood pressure and breath rate decrease during this phase. It’s difficult to wake up during the restful sleep phase and, if woken, some disorientation is likely. Adults under 30 typically get 2 hours of restorative sleep per night while people over 65 may only average 30 minutes of restorative sleep.

Why is Restful Sleep Important?

The restful sleep phase is very important for a variety of health processes including energy and cell restoration. Glucose metabolism increases and this facilitates long and short-term memory. Blood supply to the muscles increases during restful sleep, supporting the growth and repair of tissues and bones. Restful sleep also strengthens the immune system. Insufficient restful sleep has been linked to dementia because restful sleep helps clear out proteins that clump together and cause Alzheimer’s disease. Poor sleep quality is linked to obesity, lack of concentration, greater risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, depression, and higher levels of inflammation.

Sleep Tracking Systems

Sleep tracking systems such as wearable health and exercise monitoring devices can provide some insights into the quantity of restful sleep during the night. However, these systems only make an educated guess about the length of sleep stages and are based on body motion and heart rate. These devices do not monitor brain activity which is the only really accurate measure of restful sleep. Sleep trackers are more accurate when you sleep reasonably well. Errors with sleep trackers become apparent when sleep is disrupted. Research has shown that sleep trackers generally do a good job providing an overview of sleep behavior. If you think you have a sleep problem, it’s best to discuss the issue with your healthcare provider. Without getting tested at a sleep clinic, the best indicator of sufficient restful sleep cycle is whether you feel well rested in the morning.

How To Get More Restful Sleep

There are a few specific habits that may increase the quantity of restful sleep.

  • Be sure to schedule an adequate amount of total sleep time, 7-9 hours per night for most adults.

  • A low carbohydrate diet can increase the quantity of restful sleep.

  • Research studies have shown that vigorous exercise such as jogging, swimming, or aerobics can increase the quantity of restorative sleep. It’s best to exercise at least 6 hours before bedtime.

Good overall sleep hygiene is the best way to improve the quality of sleep. There are plenty of recommendations for good sleep hygiene. Here are a few of them.

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

  • Make your bedroom dark, quiet and cool.

  • Don’t eat a big meal, drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, exercise, or use electronic devices close to bedtime.

  • Exercise at least 20 minutes and spend some time outdoors every day.

  • Stop working an hour before bed and create a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath or read a good book for a few minutes before bed.

  • Avoid naps or restrict them to less than 30 minutes. Don’t nap late in the day.

  • Take your medications in the morning.

  • Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep. Get up and read a book or listen to music until you feel sleepy.

As with exercise and eating, good sleep habits should be practiced regularly to improve the likelihood of aging well.


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