Most of us feel sleep deprived. In fact, in a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation, almost two-thirds of Americans say they don't sleep well at least three nights a week. What's causing the problem? Dr. James Maas, director of psychology at Cornell University and author of "Power Sleep,” shares an expert opinion.
Sleep myths vs. sleep facts:
1. The older you get, the fewer hours sleep you need.FALSE
While most of us can operate on eight hours of sleep, we are simply not our best. If we lose as little as an hour's sleep, we are more prone to inattentiveness, mistakes, illness and accidents.
2. Raising the volume on your radio and air conditioner or drinking coffee will help you stay awake while driving? FALSE
Thirty-one percent of the population report having fallen asleep while driving. There is nothing that is going to help you stay awake at the wheel. The best thing to do is to pull over and take a nap.
3. Men need more sleep than women.FALSE
It doesn't matter if your a man or a woman. If you're getting less than eight hours of sleep each night, you are sleep deprived. And according to sleep experts, if you want to be fully alert, in a good mood, mentally shape, creative and energetic all day long, you might need to spend at least one-third of your life sleeping.
4. If you have insomnia at night, you should take a long nap during the day. FALSE
Your daytime sleep, especially if it's longer than 30 minutes, could be causing your nighttime insomnia. Naps are a good idea only if you can't manage to get one continuous period of sleep at night that is long enough to enable you to be fully alert all day long.
5. To promote optimal sleep, the best time to exercise is early morning.
The best time to exercise is in the late afternoon or at noon time. Morning exercise has little effect on the quality of sleep that night. If you must exercise in the early morning, do not do so at the expense of needed sleep. Make sure you get to bed in time to fulfill your sleep quotient.
6. The human body never adjusts to night shift work.TRUE
Our natural sleep-wake cycle, regulated by light and darkness and programmed by over thousands of years of evolution, prevents us from easily adjusting to night or rotating shifts and irregular work schedules. In fact, sleep shift workers are 40 percent more likely than day workers to be involved in accidents at work, on the highway and at home.
Golden rules of sleep:
1. Get an adequate amount of sleep every night.
Identify the amount of sleep you need to be fully alert all day long, and get that amount every night. Dr. Maas say it will dramatically change your mood And your ability to think critically and creatively. It will also improve your memory, perception, reaction time and motor coordination.
2. Establish a regular sleep schedule.
Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up without an alarm clock at the same time every morning, including weekends. Dr. Maas says that's 7 days a week - 365 days a year. Regularity is important for setting and stabilizing your internal sleep-wake biological clock. Within six weeks, your regular schedule will make you feel significantly more alert than sleeping for the same amount of time but at different hours across the week and weekend.
3. Get continuous sleep.
For sleep to be rejuvenating you should get your required amount of sleep in one continuous block. Disrupted sleep is not restorative and will cause you to be drowsy during the day. Six hours of good, solid sleep is often more restorative than eight hours of poor, fragmented sleep.
4. Make up for lost sleep.
An occasional late night won't do much damage to your alertness. Dr. Maas says, remember, reducing sleep by one hour for seven nights has the same effect as staying awake for twenty-four consecutive hours once a week! Dr. Maas says to pay back your sleep debt in a timely fashion. Make up for lost sleep ASAP, meaning, go to bed earlier than usual. The important rule is to return to your regular sleep schedule as soon as possible.