The science behind restorative sleep
Restorative Sleep Study Funded By Bryte Foundation Set To Transform Understanding of Sleep Health in America
Bryte invests in restorative sleep understanding
There is a lot of talk these days about optimizing sleep. But before we can optimize sleep, we must understand what optimal sleep is.
We believe the value of sleep is measured not just in the stats and metrics about the composition of your sleep, but in the consequence of your sleep. In other words, it’s not about what happened while you were asleep, it’s about how you feel as a result of it.
More specifically, how restored do you feel as a result of your sleep?
At Bryte we believe restoration is the true purpose of sleep.
Therefore restorative sleep is the optimal state of sleep to which we should aspire.
A giant gap in sleep understanding.
You've likely heard the saying “what gets measured gets managed.” But what if the measures for restorative sleep do not exist? Or what if there is not even a formal definition of the phrase restorative sleep itself?
Until recently, this was the case for restorative sleep.
As champions of restorative sleep, Bryte’s charitable organization - The Bryte Foundation funded original restorative sleep research from a team of world-class researchers convened by Dr Rebecca Robbins, to plug this gap in understanding.
What they found not only satisfies this need, but fundamentally challenges long-held perceptions of sleep health in America.
More than double the scale of problem we thought we had
The thought-provoking restorative sleep study was published in the renowned scientific journal Frontiers in Sleep and revealed that more than 7 out of 10 Americans do not achieve restorative sleep.
This finding is consequential because although mainstream awareness of sleep problems in America has risen since the COVID pandemic, the majority of reports on the nation’s sleep health still claim that only around 3 out of 10 Americans have a sleep problem.
The study’s results reveal the true state of America's sleep health, and together with newly identified disparities of restorative sleep outcomes within different population groups, have reignited debates regarding the need to improve sleep quality for all.
The first national study on restorative sleep outcomes
Typically, most articles about the state of sleep in America tend to cite approximately one third of Americans to have a sleep problem, however this stat vastly misrepresents the problem, as it is typically sourced either from a count of Americans with clinically diagnosed with Insomnia, (and therefore excludes the experience of most people) or it is based on a study of self-reported sleep duration alone.
This new restorative sleep research is unique and groundbreaking because it is the first scientific study to assess America’s sleep satisfaction based on the prevalence of a positive outcome - sleeper restoration - rather than prevalence of sleep disorders or commonly used measures such as hours of sleep duration.
As Dr Robbins explains…
“Too often, we focus solely on sleep duration when measuring sleep or communicating its importance. While sleep duration is an integral part of a healthy sleep routine, focusing on duration alone has some shortcomings. "
...Focusing on sleep duration alone may miss the fact that some may sleep for an amount of time that is in the recommended range, but wake up not feeling restored by their sleep.
Dr. Rebecca Robbins
By observing America’s sleep through the lens of feelings of restoration, we gain important insight into not only the duration of sleep but qualitative evaluation of sleep and its impact on quality of life.”
-Dr. Rebecca Robbins
The dawn of dedicated restorative sleep research
“A Nationally Representative Survey Assessing Restorative Sleep in US Adults” was made possible by a donation from The Bryte Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bryte.
“We have always believed that at the end of the day, what matters most about sleep is how restored you feel by your sleep. This is why we focus on technology and products that are purpose-built to improve restorative outcomes.”
Explains Jonny Farringdon, Co-founder and Fellow at Bryte
“However we also recognize that the science of restorative sleep itself is not as clearly understood as other aspects of sleep science, which is why we created the Bryte Foundation to help fund further research into this domain.”
As a pioneer in restorative sleep technology, Bryte created the Bryte Foundation to advance sleep science and socialize the positive impacts of quality, restorative sleep. In partnership with the Bryte Foundation, the study was conducted by clinicians and researchers at The Sleep Matters Initiative within Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and led by Dr. Rebecca Robbins, a leading sleep researcher, author and influential advocate for sleep health and awareness.
Together with colleagues of the Sleep Matters Initiative, an initiative led by Dr Charles A. Czeisler, Dr. Robbins led collaboration with a world-class panel of eminent sleep scientists, including Matthew P. Walker (University of California; Berkeley), Dr. Stuart Quan (Harvard Medical School, Brigham & Women’s Hospital), Dr. Thomas Roth (Henry Ford Hospital), Dr. Daniel Buysee (University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine), and Dr. Shanthakumar W. Rajaratnam (Monash University; Melbourne, Victoria).
With the involvement of such high caliber scientists and the peer reviewed publication in Frontiers, there is assured validity of the significant shift in how we should understand and quantify America’s need for better sleep.
So what does "restorative sleep" actually mean?
The initial challenge facing the researchers was the absence of a scientific consensus definition of the term restorative sleep.
“Although many of us, even those working in the fields of sleep science and sleep medicine, commonly use the term restorative sleep, we have not had a concise definition. In this paper, we offer a definition of restorative sleep. We also conduct one of the first nationally representative studies of restorative sleep."
-Dr. Rebecca Robbins.
To align, the team of researchers collaborated using a scientific procedure named the Delphi method, leading to a newly validated definition of restorative sleep:
"Restorative sleep is the aspect of sleep associated with improved subjective alertness, cognitive function, mood, energy, and/or wellbeing relative to the immediate pre-sleep period. "
(Robbins et al, 2022)
With the new definition agreed upon, the team then evaluated a number of existing methods of measuring sleep quality, before deciding to enhance a previously validated method for non-restorative sleep, created by Drake, Roth et al (Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2014).
Using this enhanced method, the researchers then conducted a nationally representative study to assess the restorative sleep prevalence in the United States.
What does this breakthrough mean for the future of sleep?
The research revealed that only 28.1% of Americans achieved high restorative sleep scores.
The inverse of this stat reveals that 71.9% of Americans demonstrated low restorative sleep scores - indicating that the widely accepted view that 3 out of 10 Americans require sleep improvement is actually closer to 7 out of 10.
It is wonderful to see the rapid increase in awareness of the value of sleep. While getting sufficient hours of sleep is indeed very important, sleep duration alone is not the whole story. This is why we encourage everyone from sleep professionals to the general public to appraise their restorative sleep - how sleep impacts how restored we feel and improves our overall quality of life.
We focus on technology & science-based solutions, such as our Restorative Bed, that actually improve your restorative sleep while you sleep. And by optimizing everything for restorative sleep, we can create the outcome that everyone wants most from their sleep - the feeling of being restored.
-Ely Tsern, Co-Founder & CTO, Bryte.
What does this mean for sleep research?
The team at Bryte look forward to seeing more sleep research that includes restorative outcomes as the measure of sleep quality. The Bryte Foundation will continue collaborating with the sleep science community and contributing funding to advance further research into restorative sleep science, while also continuing to advocate for mainstream understanding of restorative sleep.
“We are delighted to have been able to contribute to the uncovering of these new insights and would like to thank Dr Robbins and her esteemed colleagues for their work. We invite all sleep professionals to consider how restorative sleep science can benefit their own scientific and clinical aims and welcome discussion with any and all interested parties.”
- Jonny Farringdon
To access the full Study on REST-Q: The National Prevalence of Restorative Sleep Among US Adults, please visit Frontiers in Sleep.