Understanding Sleep Efficiency and Its Role in Restorative Sleep
Sleep efficiency is a critical concept in understanding sleep quality. It represents the ratio between the actual time spent sleeping and the total time spent in bed, including periods of wakefulness during the time set aside for rest.
For instance, if you allocate 7 hours for sleep, from 11 PM to 6 AM, and spend 1.5 hours awake (30 minutes to fall asleep, 30 minutes of nighttime awakenings, and 30 minutes trying to fall back asleep), you will have slept for only 5 hours and 30 minutes.
Why Is Sleep Efficiency Important?
More efficient sleep usually leads to deeper, more restorative sleep with fewer and briefer interruptions (Buysse et al., 2008). Research indicates that individuals with chronic sleep difficulties often overestimate the time it takes to fall asleep and the duration of awakenings during the night. They may also underestimate their total amount of sleep (Harvey & Tang, 2012). This overestimation is a common reason why some people with insomnia report poor sleep even when they have had sufficient opportunities to rest.
How Can You Improve Sleep Efficiency?
If you struggle with insomnia or are seeking ways to enhance your sleep quality, consider professional assistance. Tracking sleep efficiency is an integral part of a highly effective and comprehensive treatment known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), also referred to as sleep therapy (Morin et al., 2006). Led by experienced therapists like Tony Ho, a Registered Social Worker specializing in CBT-I, this approach can help you achieve more restorative sleep and a healthier lifestyle.
Measure Your Sleep Efficiency
Use the calculator below to measure your sleep efficiency, or contact us to explore personalized treatment options designed to improve sleep patterns and overall well-being. Sign up for my free Better Sleep Toolkit, which contains a sleep diary you can use to track your sleep.
Use the calculator below to measure your sleep efficiency:
Calculate your sleep efficiency in a few easy steps.
Answer these questions based on your previous night's sleep. It doesn't have to be exact, just an estimate will do.
Calculating Sleep Efficiency by Hand
Prefer to crunch the numbers yourself? Grab a pen, and let’s get started!
Record your planned bed and rise times, and do your best to stick with them all week.
- Bed time: 10:30 pm
- Rise time: 7:00 am
Step 1: Daily Entries
For each day, jot down the following details. No need for exact times; a good guess will do!
- Day and Date: Any day can be your starting point.
- Q1-Q7: Write down details like when you went to bed, how many times you woke up, and what affected your sleep (worries, caffeine, etc.). Here’s an example for you:
- Q1: What time did you go to bed? Ex. 10:15 pm
- Q2: What time did you try to sleep? Ex. 11:00 pm
- Q8: Note anything that interfered with your sleep.
Step 2: End-of-Week Numbers
Based on a typical night, let’s find out your sleep efficiency and duration.
How to Calculate Your Sleep Numbers:
Sleep Duration: Your “total sleep time.”
- Minutes between falling asleep (Q3) and final awakening (Q6). Ex. 12:30 am to 8:00 am = 450 min.
- Subtract nighttime awakenings (Q5). Ex. 450 min – 80 min = 370 min.
- Sleep Duration = 370 min (6 h 10 min)
Sleep Efficiency: How much you slept compared to time in bed. Aim for 85% to 95%.
- Total time in bed: Minutes between going to bed (Q1) and getting up (Q7). Ex. 10:15 pm to 9:00 am = 645 min.
- Sleep Efficiency = (370 ÷ 645) x 100 = 57%
Congrats on completing your weekly Sleep Diary! You’ve just unlocked personal insights that can help you rest better. Keep track, make changes, and don’t hesitate to reach out for support.
Remember, understanding your sleep isn’t about perfection; it’s a journey towards better well-being.
What the numbers mean:
A healthy sleep efficiency is generally considered to be around 85% or higher. Here’s how this range breaks down:
- 85-89%: This is often considered the lower limit of normal sleep efficiency. While it may be acceptable, improvements might still be beneficial.
- 90-95%: This is considered a healthy and optimal range for most adults. At this level, a person is spending most of their time in bed actually asleep.
- Above 95%: Although this might seem ideal, very high sleep efficiency might also indicate too little time in bed, which could lead to sleep deprivation in some cases.
Researchers have explored various parameters that define sleep quality, including sleep efficiency. They emphasize that sleep efficiency might be influenced by various factors, including age, stress levels, lifestyle, and the presence of sleep disorders.
Why It Matters
Understanding and maintaining optimal sleep efficiency is essential for overall well-being. Poor sleep efficiency could be an indication of sleep disorders like insomnia or other underlying health issues. In therapy, strategies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), often include interventions to improve sleep efficiency.
Ready to get started? Connect with me for a complimentary and confidential initial consultation.
- Hauri, P., & Wisbey, J. (1992). Wrist actigraphy in insomnia. Sleep, 15(4), 293-301.
- Buysse, D.J., Reynolds, C.F., Monk, T.H., Berman, S.R., & Kupfer, D.J. (2008). The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: A new instrument for psychiatric practice and research. Psychiatry Research, 28(2), 193-213.
- Harvey, A.G., & Tang, N.K.Y. (2012). (Mis)perception of sleep in insomnia: A puzzle and a resolution. Psychological Bulletin, 138(1), 77-101.
- Morin, C.M., Bootzin, R.R., Buysse, D.J., Edinger, J.D., Espie, C.A., & Lichstein, K.L. (2006). Psychological and behavioral treatment of insomnia: Update of the recent evidence (1998-2004). Sleep, 29(11), 1398-1414.