5 Signs You've Gotten a Good Night's Sleep

How to tell when you've actually slept well.

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Photo by: SeventyFour/Getty Images

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In recent years, issues like narcolepsy and insomnia have become more prevalent. The stress and anxiety of living through a pandemic has likely made things worse for everyone, especially for those who already had sleep issues. Good sleep quality is necessary for healthy functioning and plays an essential role in our physical and mental wellbeing. Research has shown that poor sleep can impact stress, mood and emotional memory as well as performance, cognitive speed and accuracy.

The research is inconclusive on how much sleep adults need — though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 7 hours or more for adults. In general, it varies based on a number of factors, and it’s really up to you to assess how rested and alert you feel upon waking and throughout the day. And while you almost certainly know what it feels like when you don't sleep well, you may not know how to tell when you're feeling rested. You can look out for these key signs to help you assess whether you’ve gotten a good night's sleep.

You wake up alert and ready to start the day.

If you’re snoozing the alarm 10 times, chances are you may not be getting enough sleep. When you close those eyes for bedtime, the body should be going into complete rest mode so that you wake up with enough energy to function properly. An indicator of sleep quality that works for me is being able to wake up without the use of the alarm while feeling energized and focused.

Your energy levels are consistent.

If you notice significant and frequent dips in energy paired with fatigue, this may be an indication that you didn’t get enough rest. It’s totally normal to go for a recovery nap to refuel on energy, however wanting to nap several times a day or struggling to stay awake after taking a midday nap may be a red flag. If you’re unsure about nap duration, it’s recommended to keep naps anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes for optimal energy. You want them to be long enough to provide some rest but not too long where you feel groggy afterwards.

Your eyes feel rested.

If you’re struggling with sleep, it’s common to have eye redness and irritation. Assess how your eyes look when you wake up since it can be a great sleep indicator. Limiting device exposure and strong lights can be helpful for getting our eyes ready to rest. I have personally found light-blocking eye masks to be incredibly helpful for easing into sleep.

You’re able to concentrate.

If you find that your mind is in a million places and you’re struggling to focus on daily tasks, this may be an indication that you didn’t get enough rest. Poor sleep quality can impact our ability to concentrate, stick to tasks and remember things. This has the ability to limit us in work or school responsibilities, so make sure to pay attention to how you’re feeling as you work on daily tasks.

You wake up pain-free.

Unless you have chronic pain or another condition that impacts how you feel physically, your body should feel relaxed and pain-free when waking up (it’s worth noting that these conditions can absolutely impact sleep quality). If you have knots, back pain or headaches, this could be an indication that sleep quality is impacted. If possible, invest in a quality mattress, pillows and sheets for better sleep.

As a registered dietitian/nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, Wendy Lopez, MS, RDN, CDCES is passionate about accessible and culturally relevant nutrition education. She is the co-host of the Food Heaven Podcast, and the co-founder of Food Heaven, an online platform that provides resources on cooking, intuitive eating, wellness and inclusion. When not working on creative projects, Wendy also provides nutritional counseling and medication management to patients with diabetes.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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