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Sleep Satisfaction May Matter More Than Objective Sleep Quality, According To Research

Sarah Regan
August 25, 2023
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Woman Sleeping
Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy
August 25, 2023

After a good night's sleep, we wake up feeling refreshed and energized—right? According to new research published in the journal Emotion1, the answer might be a bit more nuanced than that. Namely, how you think you slept might matter more than actual sleep quality factors. Here's what they found.

Studying sleep satisfaction versus sleep quality

For this study, researchers looked at over 100 young participants for two weeks, tracking their sleep habits as they related to things like mood and energy levels.

The participants kept sleep diaries, recording when they started winding down, when they went to bed, how long it took them to fall asleep, when they woke up, how long they took getting out of bed, and how satisfied they were with their sleep.

Then, throughout the day, participants rated their emotions and life satisfaction, as well as wore activity monitors to keep track of their movements versus rest.

And when the study authors looked at all the data, they were surprised to find that sleep satisfaction played more of a role in the participants' well-being than you might think.

As the study's lead author Anita Lenneis, Ph.D., explains in a news release, "Our results found that how young people evaluated their own sleep was consistently linked with how they felt about their well-being and life satisfaction," adding that when participants reported sleeping better than they normally did, for instance, they actually experienced more positive emotions and had a higher sense of life satisfaction the next day.

Meanwhile, the activity monitor's measure of sleep quality, which is used to determine sleep efficiency, did not predict well-being.

"This suggests there is a difference between actigraphy-measured sleep efficiency and people's own perception of their sleep quality in how they link to people's evaluations of their well-being," Lenneis says.

What to do about it

The findings of this study suggest that the way you think you slept can contribute to your mood the next day, more so than what your sleep-tracking device may tell you.

As Lenneis notes, "Even though a sleep tracking device might say that you slept poorly last night, your own perception of your sleep quality may be quite positive. And if you think that you slept well, it may help better your mood the next day."

Similarly, a sleep tracker telling you that you did sleep well can help you reassess how well you actually slept if you feel like you didn't get a good night's sleep, she says.

"A sleep tracker offers information about your sleep which is typically not accessible while being asleep, so, it may improve your subjective perception of last night's sleep and thereby your overall next day's well-being," according to Lenneis.

Of course, if you're looking to optimize your sleep, both subjectively and objectively, a research-backed, nonhormonal supplement is a good place to start. Find our favorites here.

The takeaway

The mind is a powerful thing, and when we tell ourselves we slept well, it would seem our bodies believe it. Not only that, but a sleep tracker might help you better assess how well you actually slept. At the end of the day (and in the morning...), it's clear the stories we tell ourselves about how we're feeling can have a big impact on our mood and well-being.

Sarah Regan author page.
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.