Understanding the importance of quality sleep is vital to our overall wellness, but how exactly do we assess if we’re getting the best rest we can? Sleep researchers have created a handy acronym, RU-SATED, to help measure our sleep quality in six different categories. Without enough quality sleep, our body’s systems can’t properly function and detox, thus putting us at greater risk of increased mortality, coronary disease, and diabetes, as well as Alzheimer’s and cancer. To better assess your risk for these sleep-related health issues, let’s break down the acronym and answer the following questions:
RU is for Regularity: Are you waking up and falling asleep at the same times every day?
S is for Sleep Quality: Do you sleep soundly, or are you restless?
A is for Alertness: How do you feel after a night of sleep? Did you feel clearheaded or is it a struggle to keep your eyes open?
T is for Timing: When are you sleeping? Sleeping at “unnatural” times of day, (i.e., nightshift workers), significantly disrupts the body’s natural rhythms.
E is for Efficiency: Are you able to fall asleep and stay asleep, or do you wake up many times a night?
D is for Duration: How many consecutive hours of sleep do you get each night?
If you’ve answered in the negative for more than two categories, you may be at greater risk for sleep-related health issues. But there are several simple steps you can take to improve your sleep quality right away, like developing a soothing bedtime ritual and limiting your late-night food and alcohol intake (as described in last month’s blog)
Take a minute to take a simple quiz (http://thepowerofwhenquiz.com/) to assess your chronotype, or when your body naturally feels most alert or sleepy. When our schedules force us to deviate from our chronotypes (which are partially dictated by our genes), we experience circadian disruption (as described in March’s blog), putting us at an increased risk for health problems, as well as depression and other mood disorders. Understanding where you fall on the chronotype spectrum can offer a great deal of insight as to why you may be struggling with certain parts of the RU-SATED assessment.
While altering our schedules to suit our chronotypes is the best solution, most of us cannot change our work hours to better suit our sleep needs. Instead, we can gently push our bodies’ circadian rhythms in an earlier direction by disconnecting from our electronics before bed, trying light therapy with a sunlamp, or using a gradual wake up natural light alarm clock. We may not be able to change our genetics, but we can certainly override some of them to our advantage.