Consistency, 6 hours one night and 10 hours the next isn't the same as 8 hours every night.
As for quality:
-make sure your room is as dark as possible -make sure your room is as quiet as possible -wind down before you go to bed, no internet or violent TV (including the news) for an hour before you hit the sack, read something in bed
Reading is a good pre-bed activity, but try to avoid doing it in bed. The only thing your bed should be associated with is sleep. It's kind of a conditioning thing. If you have to read in bad, keep the literature rather short (like a book with some columns, like Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson's books) or dull. Have some kind of pre-bed ritual. See that there is enough oxygen in the room and that it's temperature is rather cool.
Don't sleep too much or take too many naps. I find, for myself at least, and a few people I know, that sleeping to much makes you rely on sleep a lot more. Over vacation I found myself napping for an hour or two a day and still finding myself tired.
I think when it comes to sleep, there are no general guidelines. Some people make great progress on 4 hours of sleep, others 10. It's really individualistic. I remember when I'd sleep from 8 - 9 PM until 3 AM, then sleep from 5 until 7:30 and I never felt better. If I sleep from 9 PM until 6 AM or 10 PM until 7 AM, I'll feel great somedays and other days I'll feel like a zombie, even doing it consistently. Experiment, see what works best for you.
How important do you think it is to get deep, REM sleep in order to fully recover from your workouts? If you're just tossing and turning, are you still going to recover from soreness and build muscle at the same rate?
I know REM sleep is important for mental alertness, just wondering how important it is for physical recovery.
I posted this in another thread on sleep in CT's forum... I find the following very helpful:
1 - Go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. As early as possible. 2 - Wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Coincide with sunrise, if you can. 3 - Do not watch TV... at all. TV serves only to fill your head with noise. 4 - When the sun goes down, light candles and try to use as little electric lighting as possible. 5 - Use ZMA. It really does improve sleep quality. 6 - Do not lay down in your bed outside of your sleeping hours. If you must nap, make it quick and use the floor or couch.
I've found there's certain times I wake up that are no good, not sure about REM or deep sleep though. For example, if I wake up at about 6 1/2 or 7 hours of sleep, it's a lot better than 7 1/2 or maybe 8. I've done it a couple days in a row and I've notice that during the day I just feel like a zombie. However, if I sleep like 8 1/2 or 9, I'm a bit better. Then again, I haven't found anything better than the example I gave above for mental alertness and physically as well.