Good quality sleep may be more important for a healthy and happy life than getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye, research suggests.
Scientists have found that those who reported getting good quality sleep – usually defined as being able to fall asleep quickly (within 15 minutes) and staying asleep without waking too many times – also reported having a better quality of life compared to those who did not.
Quality of life was measured using five parameters: life satisfaction, wellbeing, happiness, subjective health and work stress.
The researchers said their findings, published in the journal Plos One, showed sleep duration is not as important to an individual’s quality of life as a good night’s slumber.
The scientists wrote: “Better sleep means a better quality of life.
“While when we sleep and how long we sleep is important, individuals who have better quality sleep also have a better quality of life, regardless of the time and length of sleep.”
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
As part of the study, the researchers from Charles University and the Czech Academy of Sciences followed more than 4,000 people in the Czech Republic over a period of three years, with adults responding to surveys in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The team also looked at “social jetlag” – where socially directed sleep patterns and biological sleep rhythms are mismatched.
Like normal jetlag, social jetlag is a result of the human body moving between two time zones: one dictated by work and social obligations, the other by the internal timing system, which is the circadian clock.
It can also occur when people go to bed later and wake up later at the weekend than on weekdays.
The team found that sleep quality was associated with health and happiness, while work stress was linked to social jetlag.
But the researchers wrote: “The study suggests, with the exception of extremes, that sleep duration alongside the differences in sleep habits on workdays and free days is not as important to the quality of life as what is considered a good night’s sleep.”
They added: “By following 4,253 people for three years, we found that those whose sleep improved also had an improved quality of life.”
Commenting on the study, Professor Neil Walsh, of Liverpool John Moores University, said the findings “indicate a strong relationship between self-reported sleep quality and quality of life”.
Prof Walsh, who recently authored a paper on sleep quality and infection, told the PA news agency: “An increasing body of scientific work indicates the importance of good sleep quality for health and that a one size fits all seven-to-eight hours of sleep each night for adults is not necessarily a requirement for everyone – individual sleep needs matter too.
“Studies are required to tackle the limitation that these findings are associational – it’s not clear whether poor quality sleep lowers quality of life or whether low quality of life leads to poor sleep quality.
“Also, studies are required in a larger population, over a longer time frame and ideally with more objective measures of sleep and clinical health outcomes.
“The measures in this study were self-reported.
“Nevertheless, these new findings support the recommendation that improving sleep quality may have beneficial effects on clinical health outcomes.”