Sleep and Lifestyle - Managing Priorities and Sleep
June 14, 2010
Many people have lifestyles that challenge their ability to get a good night's sleep. Maybe you are a student, shift worker, or just have a busy schedule, and you must choose between sleep and something equally important to you. Perhaps a temporary change in your lifestyle, such as a second job or new baby is requiring that you get up extra early or stay up late at night. Whatever your circumstances, remember that sleep is vital to overall health and well-being, and that lifestyle is a function of choices. By making healthy choices such as planning for sleep, you can maintain health and your ability to function during the day and still have time to live your life.
An important first step is to learn more about how sleep works. Every living creature needs sleep. Getting enough sleep without interruptions helps you maintain your natural sleep architecture and results in restful and restorative sleep. Sleep architecture typically alternates REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep throughout a night in a cycle that repeats itself about every 90 minutes.
Understand your body and work with it. The first thing experts will tell you about sleep is that there is no "magic number." Not only do different age groups need different amounts of sleep, but sleep needs are also individual. While you may be at your absolute best sleeping seven hours a night, someone else may clearly need nine hours to have a happy, productive life. Know your "magic number" and know what kind of sleeper you are.
To get the best out of your lifestyle, make sleep a priority by managing your routine and sleep schedule. It is difficult to make up for lost sleep because each time you don't get enough sleep, you add to your sleep debt, which may make you feel sleepier and less alert later. Try to maintain regular sleep and wake times. However, if you know you may lose sleep, or find that you are too sleepy to go on, take a planned or emergency nap. While naps do not necessarily make up for inadequate or poor quality nighttime sleep, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can help to improve mood, alertness, and performance. Keep in mind that your intake of food and drugs may also affect your sleep. Caffeine and alcohol affect the body differently, but either taken too close to bedtime may make it difficult to sleep.
Finally, if you suspect that you may have a sleep problem, don't ignore the warning signs. Address problems as they arise and seek help from qualified professionals. The one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping is far from unproductive. Sleep plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.
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