Not everybody is a morning person. Let’s face it, not all of us can jump out of bed whistling a happy tune. But if waking up is hard to do and your energy level seems to be at an all-time low, there’s probably something missing from your life—and it’s not an extra cup of coffee.
While health has recently become a major priority with more and more women paying attention to proper diet and exercise, very few consider rest and relaxation part of the equation. Due to their hectic lifestyle, women are constantly on their toes, never giving themselves a break, never finding time to unwind. Most of us simply don’t get enough sleep, the kind of sleep our bodies need to function properly. We’re all familiar with the sleep prescription of “eight to ten hours a night”. But honestly, as much as we’d all like to get that maximum dose, who can afford it given our busy schedules? It’s just not realistic, you might say. But studies show that an extra hour or two of sleep could help you reap more benefits that you ever imagined.
Jessica, a project manager, recalls the three nights she spent slaving over her thesis. She was so busy putting everything together that there simply wasn’t time to sleep. “After I finished everything, I looked terrible. My hair had split ends and my skin was breaking out.” Margie, a college student, says that not only does her energy lag when she doesn’t get enough sleep, but her looks suffer as well. “I don’t think I’m ever going to get rid of my eyebags!” Well, they don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. Remember when Mom tried to make you take afternoon naps, with the assurance that sleeping would make you grow taller and stronger? Well, it turns out she was right. Florence Quintos, a professor of nursing at St. Paul’s College says that sleep is necessary, primarily “because your body needs to rest, but also because sleep allows your body to repair tissues and recover from physical strain.” Growing children need their rest, but busy adults need quality sleep as well, to rest and recuperate from the daily grind.
Put Sickness to Sleep
Still not ready to give up your late nights? Consider this while you’re keeping late nights. Sleep deprived individuals are less resistant to illness. A 1996 study by Michael Irwin, M.D. at the University of California Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Diego showed that the body’s immune responses are hampered by lack of sleep, making you a prime target for whatever bug is going around at the moment. Just one short subsequent night of quality rest gets your immune system up and running again. So if you’ve been feeling under the weather, sluggish and sickly, it may not be all in your head. It could simply be that your lack of sleep is wearing your body down—dragging your performance at work down with it. Jackie, a teacher, says, “When I don’t get enough sleep, I feel bad during the day—parang ang dali kong mapagod. That definitely affects my performance, especially since I have to be active to keep up with my kids.” It’s clear as well that sleep can boost your mood. “When I started sleeping earlier, I felt so much better in the morning. Before, mainit ang ulo ko as soon as I got up! And I was in a better mood during the day too,” continues Jackie.
Brain Power and Bright Ideas
What else can you get out of a good night’s sleep? During a single night of sleep, you cycle through distinct sleeping stages. One of the most important—and perhaps one of the most familiar—is REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep. This is the period of dreaming, when your dreams are most vivid. Researchers believe that sleep during this stage is crucial to learning, improving memory, and problem-solving. This is why your parents and teachers always told you to go to bed early the night before a test—and it’s also why a night of deep sleep will help you perform better in the workplace. Individuals who lose REM sleep have problems remembering new skills and information. So although you stay up all night working on your presentation, you may not remember all the facts and figures when you’re face to face with your boss or client.
Another benefit? Many believe that you can tap your unconscious mind to find solutions to whatever problems are bogging you down during the day. How many times have you awakened in the night with a major light-bulb notion for a problem or situation? Katy, a copywriter in an advertising agency confesses, “When I’m hard-pressed for a good concept, I just sleep on it. Nine times out of ten, I wake up with a really good idea…and what’s more, I’m fresh enough to flesh it out in the morning.”
Don’t Shut Out Shut-eye
Now, maybe you’re convinced that sleep is worth investing in. But you’re also pretty sure that you don’t need eight to ten hours. Here’s how to figure out how much sleep you really need. Take a tip from sleep specialist, James Maas, Ph.D., author of Power Sleep. Turn in at least eight hours before you have to get up. Maintain that bedtime for one week. If you need an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning, chances are you still haven’t slept enough. Go to bed an additional 30 minutes earlier for the next week, and gradually add 15 to 30 minutes until you no longer need the alarm clock to wake you, and you feel alert throughout the day. That is your personal sleep prescription. Once you’ve found out how much sleep you need, stick to that schedule as faithfully as possible by going to bed at the same time very night, and waking up at the same time very day (yes, even on weekends).
Nothing can make up for quality sleep. If you lose several hours of sleep one night and wake up cranky the next morning, two cups of coffee, a caffeine-laded soda, or an energy booster drink (Red Bull, anyone?) aren’t going to make you feel any better. In fact, taking too much caffeine could be counter-productive—it dehydrates your body, leaving you feeling even more tired. If you didn’t get your required amount of sleep one night, it will affect the way you feel. You may even feel sleepier—even when you’re back to your normal sleeping hours. Get in a few extra hours of rest by taking to bed early for a few days—not by shifting your normal waking time.
Being healthy and productive is about more than just eating the right food and getting enough exercise. Sleep is not a waste of time, and though you could cram in a lot of work by staying up till the wee hours, the lack of rest will catch up with you. Try finding out just how much sleep you really need. It may not miraculously transform you into a morning person, but it could start you getting up on the right side of the bed for a change!
Tips for Sure-fire Shut-eye
- · A glass of warm milk—use skim if you’re watching your weight.
- · A good dinner and a warm bath.
- · Avoid caffeinated drinks late in the day.
- · Avoid vigorous exercise late in the day.
- · Engage only in quiet activity once dusk falls.
- · Don’t read or eat in bed—just use it for sleeping.