Sleep Better, Live Better: The Four Pillars of Sleep
Do you struggle with getting a good night's sleep? You're not alone. Many of us don't get the recommended hours of sleep per night, which can affect our physical and mental well-being. But the good news is that there are many tools available to improve your sleep habits. Many of the tools fall under the four pillars of sleep, which include: Regularity, Continuity, Quantity, and Quality. By following these pillars you can sleep better, live better, and enjoy the many benefits of a good night's sleep.
Pillar 1: Regularity - Stick to a Sleep Schedule
The key to a good night's sleep starts with a consistent sleep schedule. Staying within a 30-minute wake-up window every day helps regulate your circadian rhythm. This ensures that you get the right amount of sleep on a regular basis. A recent study that surveyed over 2,000 first-year medical residents found that the irregularity of their sleep patterns greatly impacted their mood and levels of depression, regardless of the overall number of hours slept (1). Good "sleep hygiene" also helps regulate other bodily functions like appetite and digestion.
- Keep your sleep window within a +/- 30 minutes, even on weekends
- Keep a consistent wake time and sleep time
Pillar 2: Continuity - Avoid Sleep Disruptors
Due to the cyclical nature of sleep, with the brain transitioning from light sleep to deep sleep to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and back, any disruptions can seriously affect your overall sleep process. If you're waking up frequently during the night, it could result from sleep disruptors such as alcohol or caffeine too close to bedtime, so keep those in moderation and at appropriate times. You might enjoy a late afternoon espresso or a post-dinner nightcap, but know that your sleep will likely suffer.
- Use earplugs, a white noise machine, or a sleep mask
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and drinking water too close to bedtime
- Avoid blue light from 10pm to 4am
Pillar 3: Quantity - Get Enough Sleep
It's common knowledge that we should aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but research confirms that there's no one-size-fits-all answer to how much sleep we all need. It varies from person to person throughout our lives (2). A good rule of thumb is if you wake up feeling refreshed and have a productive day, you probably got enough sleep. If not, there's no point in lying to yourself. Not getting enough sleep can lead to plenty of negative consequences, like affecting your mood, cognitive abilities, and your overall health.
- Get more data about your sleep using a wearable device or app
- Compare that data to how you feel to understand the right amount of sleep for you
Pillar 4: Quality - Create the Right Sleep Environment
Sleep quality refers to how well you sleep and if it is restful and rejuvenating. It's not just a matter of how you feel about the sleep you're getting, but also includes factors like how long it takes you to fall asleep, how often you wake up during the night, the amount of time spent awake during the night, and the amount of time you spend actually sleeping while in bed. In addition to these factors, understanding your chronotype (night owl or morning lark) can be beneficial to a quality night’s rest. If you're having trouble sleeping, consider reconstructing your sleep environment and building a routine that is conducive to your lifestyle.
- Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable
- Build a consistent bedtime and wake-up routine
- Try new things like meditating, reading a book, taking a warm bath before bed
Take Action and Sleep Better Tonight
By focusing on these four pillars of sleep, you can improve your sleep habits and enjoy the many benefits that come with a good night's sleep.Start with these strategies, and you'll be well on your way to better sleep.
Check out our video below where Momentous partner Dr. Allison Braeger gives a brief break down of the science of sleep.
- Fang, Y., Forger, D.B., Frank, E. et al. (2021). Day-to-day variability in sleep parameters and depression risk: a prospective cohort study of training physicians. npj Digit. Med. 4, 28
- Jean-Philippe Chaput, Caroline Dutil & Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga (2018). Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this?, Nature and Science of Sleep, 10, 421-430