How quickly we manage to fall asleep (aka sleep latency) could be an indicator of your overall sleep health
That's the initial finding from an intriguing new study which forms part of The Healthy Sleep Project, commissioned by The Sleep Council and being conducted at the Department of Psychology at Northumbria University, led by Professor Jason Ellis.
With this week being Sleep Awareness Week (11th-17th March), it seems the ideal time to take a closer look at the study...
So far, the research has found that a regular sleeper who falls asleep within 10 to 15 minutes of their head touching the pillow is likely to have good sleep health - in comparison, those who lay there for more than 15 minutes are likely to have a sleep health that is under stress.
Professor Ellis said: "Previously, there was an assumption that there would be more than one marker or indicator of sleep health. However, evidence shows that factors such as total time spent asleep or how often people wake up don’t figure at all."
"That’s why the results from our studies are so surprising. They suggest there is one main marker of good sleep health and that is how quickly someone perceives they fall asleep."
'Sleep health' is a relatively new concept, stemming from a growing interest in the relationship between sleep and physical, cognitive and emotional performance.
To date, sleep research has predominantly focused on disturbed or disordered sleep, meaning this study is among the first of its kind to investigate the underlying markers, or signs, of good sleep health.
The study was carried out on 83 individuals aged 18-65 from the North of England, with no history of sleep disorders, chronic physical or psychiatric illnesses or substance misuse.
The data gathered included surveys, sleep diaries, actigraphy (involving participants wearing small movement measurement devices for two weeks) - and two nights laboratory analysis under polysomnography (PSG) to monitor sleep.
The Healthy Sleep Project is now set to continue, with Northumbria University further looking into links between sleep health and perceived sleep latency, while also looking at physical and psychological benefits of good sleep health.