There’s a Difference Between Sleeping Enough and Sleeping *Well*—Here’s How To Make Both Happen This New Year

It's true: Just because you log your eight hours every night doesn't mean you're automatically going to wake up feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed (anyone who's ever gone through the day dealing with brain fog even after going to bed early can attest). And if you're a parent juggling a million responsibilities? Having the chance to go to bed early probably feels like a dream.

Whether you're struggling to get enough sleep, or you're looking to improve the quality of your sleep this new year, knowing the difference (and the effects of each) is key for tackling your particular goal.

So, what's really the difference between sleeping enough and sleeping well? To find out, we asked sleep and health psychologist Dr. Joshua Tal, PhD to break it down for us.

“From a personal take, the idea of ‘enough sleep’ implies the bare minimum (or smallest quantity) of sleep that allows for adequate functioning during the day,” Dr. Tal says. “Upon closer inspection, many people with ‘enough sleep’ may still show signs of dysfunction, like poor concentration, short temper, lower immune system, or longer recovery following a workout.” (The people with brain fog are nodding their heads.)

“‘Sleeping well’ usually indicates getting an adequate amount of quality sleep the night before," he continues. "This would imply not only seven to nine hours of sleep, but also sufficient amounts of stage two, stage three, and REM sleep to account for the physical and mental benefits of sleep—consolidated memory, improved cognitive abilities, repaired muscles, or a strengthened immune system."

If you’re not sure where you land on the sleeping scale, don’t worry—Dr. Tal has a few easy-to-follow sleeping tips that can help improve anyone's sleep hygiene, along with some sleep-supporting essentials from Walmart (the one-stop shop for supporting your wellness goals in 2022) that can help elevate your nighttime routine.

Keep scrolling for more sleeping tips and product recs.

1. Take inventory of how you feel

If you're literally falling asleep at your desk, or you're wishing you could join your kids during their nap time, that's a pretty good sign something is off with your sleep. But if you're only feeling sluggish at certain times of day, your sleep routine might not actually need a drastic change.

“Immediately after you wake up and after lunch, it is normal to feel sleepy,” Dr. Tal says. “Most other times throughout the day, if you’re feeling alert, refreshed, and 'like yourself,' then you are getting the sleep your body needs.”

On those days when you don't feel like yourself, there are a few supplements that can give you some support. In the evenings, you can try ashwagandha, which is known to promote better sleep and feelings of calm by supporting the body's stress response.

For a daytime assist, try adding a probiotic to your routine. Not to get too scientific, but studies have shown that probiotics and a healthy microbiome can support healthy levels of serotonin, melatonin, and cortisol, all of which contribute to sleep quality as well as overall feelings of well-being.

2. Pay attention to time

It's easy to go through the motions of morning commutes, mid-day meetings, and late-night interactions without realizing how little you put aside for yourself. To make your schedule work around your wellness needs, Dr. Tal suggests creating daily habits that let your body know when it’s time to wake up and when it's time to wind down.

"Set a [morning] alarm for the same time every day, including the weekend," he offers as a suggestion for improving sleep quality. "[To support getting enough sleep,] set a bedtime alarm, and spend 30 to 60 minutes winding down and doing a relaxing bedtime routine."

Support both routines with an alarm clock that prepares you for rest with sunset and sunrise simulation features. And to really use tech in your favor, grab a smartwatch that can help you manage your wind-down moments and track how well you're sleeping.

3. Create a pressure-free environment

Believe it or not, the atmosphere of your bedroom can contribute to whether you get a good night’s rest, which is why revamping your sleeping space is one of Dr. Tal's tips for improving sleep quality. “Create a relaxing environment in the bedroom," he says. "Quiet, cool, and dark.”

To apply this tip, start by elevating your bedding. Swap in a set of lightweight, soft percale sheets made with organic cotton that's cool to the touch, and add on a breathable quilt for that just-right temperature. And if you really want to give your room a restorative revamp? Upgrade your bed frame to a modern platform bed you'll be excited to dive into every night.

The most important thing to remember is that your space and your approach to sleep should be calming, not stress-inducing. "Don't pressure yourself to sleep," Dr. Tal says. "Trust your body, and you will get the sleep you need."

Want more wellness-boosting essentials and inspo? Check out Walmart's New Year Shop for everything you need to power your wellness goals this year.

Top Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

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