Quality of sleep more important than quantity for a better life, study finds

Research supports belief that improving sleep quality boosts health

Duration was less important to quality of life than a good night’s sleep, the Czech Republic study found. Getty Images
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Getting good quality sleep could be more important for a healthy and happy life than getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, according to new research.

A study by scientists at Charles University in Prague and the Czech Academy of Sciences found that those who reported good quality sleep — defined as being able to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep without waking too many times — also reported having a better quality of life compared to those who did not.

The study, which followed more than 4,000 people in the Czech Republic for three years, measured quality of life using five parameters: satisfaction, well-being, happiness, subjective health and work stress.

The researchers found that those whose sleep improved also had an improved quality of life.

They found that sleep duration was not as important to an individual’s quality of life as a good night’s sleep.

The study, published in the journal PLoS One, supports the recommendation that improving sleep quality may have beneficial effects on clinical health outcomes.

The researchers said: “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 study also examined “social jet lag”, where socially directed sleep patterns and biological rhythms are mismatched, and found that sleep quality was associated with health and happiness, while work stress was linked to social jet lag.

Prof Neil Walsh of Liverpool John Moores University told The National: "Social jet lag reflects, for example, the difference between weekday and weekend sleep and risks of poor health outcome. Having a regular sleep schedule is recommended."

However, the researchers said further studies were needed to establish whether poor quality sleep lowers quality of life or whether low quality of life leads to poor sleep quality.

Prof Walsh said the findings “indicate a strong relationship between self-reported sleep quality and quality of life”.

He said: "Seven to nine hours of sleep for adults is based upon empirical research but we are now learning that individual sleep needs are important and that an individual can, for example, have shorter sleep but still report good sleep quality.

"For example, we have shown that sleep restriction increases risk of respiratory infections but only in those reporting poor sleep quality."

He added: “Studies are required in a larger population, over a longer timeframe and ideally with more objective measures of sleep and clinical health outcomes.”

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults sleep for at least seven hours each night.

Updated: March 15, 2023, 6:00 PM