What is more important? Sleep Quantity OR Sleep Quality?
The quantity of sleep that your child needs and achieves is super important, I think we all know that. Many parents pay high levels of attention to this, and although the quantity of sleep is important, there is an equally important factor.
Quality! The quality of sleep for your child is as important as the quantity. And in my opinion, quite possibly MORE important. And unfortunately, it is often disregarded by health care professionals and other sleep specialists.
So, what's the difference?
Sleep Quantity - the amount of sleep your child is having in a 24 hour period
Sleep Quality - the measure of how well your child actually sleeps; restful and restorative
Sleep quantity is quite easy to measure. All you need to know is the amount of sleep your child needs for their age and determine if they are consistently achieving this in the 24 hour period. You can find out how much your child needs on my blog: Sleep Quantity Requirements.
If your child is lacking sleep duration, then you have a sleep quantity issue.
This can be relatively easily fixed by focusing on increasing the sleep quantity in the 24 hour period. This can mean working on extending total day sleep, adequately balancing the sleep pressuring during the day, establishing a supportive sleep environment, reducing night wakes or encouraging self-settling and resettling skills.
Sleep quality is very difficult to measure but it’s not entirely subjective. Four terms are generally assessed to measure sleep quality:
Sleep latency: How long it takes your child to fall asleep. Drifting off to sleep within 10-30 minutes after going to bed suggests that the quality of your child's sleep is good. But this shouldn't be used as an independent value.
Sleep waking: How often your child wakes up during the night. Whilst night wakes are normal, frequent or excessive wakefulness at night can disrupt the sleep cycles and reduce overall sleep quality.
Wakefulness: How many minutes are spent awake during the night after first going to sleep.
Sleep efficiency: The depth of each sleep cycle and the amount of time your child actually spends sleeping whilst in bed.
There are a number of factors that can impact the quality of your child's sleep. And since sleep quality issues can be cause for concern, even if your child has amazing sleep quantity, it’s really important that the cause and management of poor sleep quality is undertaken.
So, what should you be looking for to assess the sleep quality of your child? Some signs of poor sleep quality include:
Taking less than 5 minutes or longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep
Naps which are naturally 30 minutes or less in length
Frequent night wakes
Long periods of awake time over night
Chronic or persistent early morning waking
Waking up still tired
Difficult daytime behaviours
Sweating whilst asleep
Poor sleep quality has an equally negative impact on sleep that a lack of quantity has. When I’m working with my clients, I always look at the quantity of sleep, the sleep balance and then the quality of sleep too. It’s practically impossible to improve your sleep concerns without looking at both components.
If you'd like to understand your child's sleep more and actually improve your child's overall sleep quantity and quality, then I can help you!
Forever bringing sleep to families,
My name is Shereen Nielsen and I am a certified infant and child sleep consultant, working with children aged birth to 12 years. I am also a lecturer and mentor for students on their journey towards becoming a Sleep Consultant, through my on-line internationally recognised sleep consultants course.
If you would like more information about my services please contact me: