The most common measure of quality sleep is duration, or, colloquially, how many hours you get each night. Restoring the circadian cycle, however, requires a broader definition of a good night’s rest, so a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh created one: the acronym RU-SATED.
“The acronym lets us look at the individual dimensions of sleep, and also allows us to consider them in the aggregate,” says professor of sleep medicine Daniel Buysse, MD. Each letter stands for a critical component of healthy sleep.
RU is for regularity, or going to bed and waking up at about the same times every day.
S is for sleep quality. Do you make it into deep sleep or toss and turn all night?
A is for alertness, or how rested and alert you feel after a night’s sleep.
T is for timing. “Most studies of adults find that the midpoint of their sleep should be somewhere between 2 and 4 a.m., so if your timing is different than that, that may lead to increased health risks,” says Buysse.
E is for efficiency, the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep for a consolidated period, and not waking up multiple times in the middle of the night. Many experts now believe that even waking up to go to the bathroom might have nothing to do with our bladders: It can happen when our cortisol spikes at the wrong time, or because our circadian clocks are out of sync.
D is for duration, or how many consecutive hours of sleep you get during the night.
Buysse says we can measure our sleep-related health risks by how much success or trouble we have with each of the above. How hard is it for you to keep a regular sleep-and-wake time? Do you sleep deeply or restlessly? Are you alert or groggy when you first get up? Buysse suggests you add up the categories in which you have issues. The greater the number of problem areas, the greater the risks for sleep-related health problems compared with someone who has issues in only one or two.
This originally appeared in “Get in Sync” in the January/February 2017 issue of Experience Life.