What constitutes good sleep? Is it the amount of hours spent lying down, the time devoted to dreaming, or the thread count for your sheets? Withings calculates the quality of your night by using Sleep Score, a culmination of different factors combined that communicate your progress and trends in mastering your sleep. Read more below.
Sleep is more than the sum of hours slept. This popular biological phenomenon is actually a complex process that relies on several factors when, combined together, account for your quality of sleep. We call this your Sleep Score which is a number rated out of 100. Potential scores include 75+ high, 50 – 75 medium, and 49 or below as low. Certain categories of sleep are worth more points than others as demonstrated below in descending order of importance:
- Duration (total time spent sleeping)
- Depth (part of night spent in restorative sleep)
- Regularity (consistency between time to bed and time to wake up)
- Time it took to fall asleep
- Time it took to wake up
Yes, duration of sleep is incredibly important as it can be a quality indicator of the other factors listed. You can even receive a score of ‘0’ for less than 4 hours of sleep. Although there are polyphasic sleeping methods like the Uberman cycle that da Vinci and Tesla practiced, most people who sleep less than 4 hours a night have impaired working cognition that seems to age the brain 8 years older than the individual’s true age. (That said, da Vinci and Tesla never married or had kids, so try working a polyphasic schedule into the family for epic failure).
But why did we choose these specific categories to rate your performance? Read on to learn more about the science behind your score.
It’s not about the quantity — it’s about quality…kind of. A Withings sleep study found that the quantity of sleep can have other effects on your body:
- People are 20% more likely to have a healthy BMI if they sleep more than 7 hours per night
- People are 59% more likely to be active if they sleep fewer than 9 hours per night
- People are 21% more likely to have healthy blood-pressure levels if they sleep more than 7 hours
Not too much sleep and not too little is more likely to set you up for biological success, but only getting enough hours of sleep the night before won’t be enough to help you pass a test, learn better, or improve in some fashion on a systemic level. Establishing a pattern of sufficient sleep over a month or more is more likely to lead to success.
Going to bed diligently at 10:00 PM on weeknights and then blowing your sleep schedule out of the water by staying up until 3:00 AM is not helpful for your sleep even with the high hopes that you may catch up on that lost snoozing the next morning by sleeping in. Truth be told, there is no catching up, and this inconsistency between your weeknight sleep habits and your weekend debauchery is called, “social jet lag.” You are essentially changing time zones for your body, and this is exhausting.
So, the next time you’re knee deep into a videogame or out at a bar with friends until they say, “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here!”, just know your Sleep Score will take a hit.
Being deep is cool, but why is depth even more important for sleep? Several of the other stages preceding deep sleep or delta sleep (named for the brain waves that are cast during this cycle) essentially prepare you for this most wondrous time. Unlike your deep friend who might wake you up to higher consciousness, deep sleep is all about tuning in and dropping out; in fact, it’s really tough to wake people up during deep sleep, and the benefits of this depth include recovery, immune system maintenance, and a couple of other great effects.
Being able to sleep faster doesn’t mean that the quality of deep sleep will also occur. Drinking alcohol, for example, can decrease sleep quality and cause breathing problems. Withings can detect your level of deep sleep per night, and this is another important factor in your Sleep Score.
Go deep by minimizing interruptions and not ingesting certain mood-altering, recreational substances including alcohol, energy drinks, or caffeine before bed. Don’t forget to add some physical activity during your day to expend any excess energy that could keep you from sleeping, and maintain a cool and dark bedroom to reduce the impact of interruptions.
Being interrupted during the sleep process can set people into a groggy rage. And for good reason! Again, the Withings sleep study found that people who experience fewer than two sleep interruptions are…
- 19% more likely to have a healthy BMI
- 21% more likely to be more active
- 23% more likely to have healthy blood-pressure levels
Roommates, noisy neighbors, too much liquid before bed, the lovable kicking of a bedmate, and the scuttling of warring pigeons and raccoons outside can all contribute to a personal disaster of a night. You can try ear plugs and sleeping masks for those issues, but problems like sleep apnea, which affects over 22 million Americans, is an entirely different issue that can contribute to your sleep interruptions at night since you may literally stop breathing for short periods of time.
Yes, your Sleep Score can go down if too many interruptions occur, such as getting out of bed, moving around a lot, and even episodes of apnea. So, make sure you don’t have a breathing disorder, sleep in a cool room, block out as much stimuli as possible, and you can still deeply care and love someone while sharing different bedrooms.
Time it took to fall asleep and wake up
Unless you are engaging in cuddling puppies or another person or object of affection, the time it takes for you to fall asleep and wake up can affect your sleep score.
“Why? I’m just hanging out and easing into the day.”
Well, it turns out that people with a healthy BMI spend 9% less time falling asleep and getting out of bed, and those who are considered active spend 28% less time engaging in the same delayed sleep behavior.
Pro tip: Don’t watch TV in bed so you can fall asleep more easily. Also, find something that gives you joy in the morning, whether that’s playing a game, drinking coffee, or getting your yoga on.
Don’t take it lying down
Improving the categories in your Sleep Score can potentially lead to an overall better nighttime experience or even reveal problems you never knew you had. Our waking state can only reveal so much about the semi-unconscious experience we engage in, ideally, every night of our lives. So, take the test, get a score, and see what you can do to master your sleep going forward.