Getting Enough Sleep: Living the Dream
Five-year-olds just don’t know how lucky they are — because I can tell you, at 3 o’clock every day, I become completely jealous. That’s when I start thinking about nap time — the chance to lie down for an hour or two and just let the world go, and get some actual rest. But the truth is, as wonderful as a nap can sound, experts say a good night’s sleep is even better.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your reaction times are off. Your decision-making skills are less than ideal. You’re just not very accurate. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis or pulling an all-nighter and then coming into the office is, according to Harvard’s Director of Sleep Medicine, Charles Czesiler, very similar to being drunk on the job. Your brain just doesn’t do what it needs to do in the time and way it needs to do it.
On the flip side, when you get enough sleep, you can do more in less time — and with fewer mistakes. Getting enough sleep provides you with extra energy and extra focus. With enough sleep, you feel happier, healthier, and more productive.
But how much sleep is enough? Everybody’s heard the generic ‘8 hours’ — which, in today’s crazy world, often gets reduced down to 5 or 6. But, believe it or not, those times are just guesses, because every single person has his or her own individual sleep needs. And not getting enough — or getting too much! — sleep can really throw you off your game.
So What Is Your “Sleep Number”?
I’m not talking about some magical mattress number, but the number of hours of sleep that your body needs to keep you functioning at peak performance.
There are different methods that can help you find out how much sleep you need each night, but the one that’s probably easiest for most working adults requires getting up at the same time every morning — weekends included. It does require some discipline, because the snooze button, as tempting as it can be, is absolutely forbidden.
In this method, you set the alarm for a convenient time for you and your regular schedule — 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m. — whatever will get you up and to work on time. And you wake up that way every morning, even on the weekends! In the evening, you go to sleep when you’re tired — don’t force it. If that means some days you’re going to bed at 3 a.m. and waking up at 6, and the next night you’re going to sleep at 9 p.m., that’s what you do! Your body needs some time to adjust and recalibrate itself. But if you continue for a couple of weeks, you’ll start to notice a pattern. Maybe you’re tired every night at 10 and sleep until 6 a.m. — now you know you really do need 8 hours of sleep.
Top Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Don’t exercise right before bed (finally, doctor’s advice that I can fully embrace!). Also, avoid bright electronic lights, particularly on handheld devices like laptops or cell phones — the bright direct light tricks your brain into thinking it’s daylight and starts to wake it right back up again. Don’t go to bed either hungry or full. And try not to stress out — it may take your body and brain to relax in order to fall asleep.
Lastly, don’t believe the myth that you can ‘catch up’ on sleep on the weekends; it’s disruptive to your body’s natural cycle. Instead make your goal to get enough sleep every night. As a bonus, you’ll find you have a lot more weekend to enjoy if you’re actually awake for it!
And remember, if you’re having a serious sleeping problem over any length of time, please consult your physician.
“I have learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a 'life’.”
– Maya Angelou
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
– Beverly Sills
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
– Anne Frank
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