What is sleep quality?
First off, it’s important to understand what sleep quality is. “Sleep quality relates to how we sleep while asleep,” behavioral sleep medicine specialist, Lisa Medalie, PsyD, DBSM, tells Apartment Therapy. “The most common examples of poor sleep quality would be fragmented sleep, frequent brief awakenings (or microarousals), and higher than expected stage 1 sleep [or] lower than expected REM or stage 3 sleep.”
According to Medalie, there are a lot of different reasons why you could be experiencing poor sleep quality. There are medically-based sleep disorders like sleep apnea, as well as external factors like pain, side effects from medications you’re taking, and environmental disturbances (i.e. noise and light) that can be disrupting your sleep cycle. When these factors are ruled out but someone still feels “unrefreshed,” poor sleep quality may not actually be the reason. Instead, the person might be sleep-deprived, meaning they did not get enough sleep; or might be dealing with a change in mood like depression, or a nutrient deficiency of some kind. It can be helpful to reach out to your primary care physician if you suspect any of these issues are impacting your sleep.
Why is sleep quality important?
According to Dr. Medalie, insufficient sleep quality or quantity negatively impacts your mood, causing you to be more irritable. Not getting enough sleep also increases your risk factor for anxiety—and if you’re already prone to or dealing with anxiety, depression, or a similar issue, you might notice your symptoms worsen following sleep loss. It’s also generally more challenging to control thoughts and emotions with insufficient sleep, which leads to unsettling mood states.
How does stress affect sleep quality?
It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a stressful year for everyone, leading to a rise in insomnia that Dr. Medalie has noticed others in the medical community calling “coronosomnia.” She adds that a host of factors—including decreased daytime structure and less access to hobbies, exercise, and coping strategies—have likely all coalesced into a nationwide sleep shortage.