Even if you log a full eight hours of shut-eye at night, you might not be getting the deep sleep you require. That's right — just like crunches and sex, when it comes to snagging Z's, quality counts as much as quantity. "Time in bed doesn't necessarily translate into good, restful sleep," says Joseph Ojile, M.D., founder and CEO of the Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis.
Think of it this way: Your body refuels with sleep; in order to wake up revved, you need premium octane. Along with making sure you have enough energy to power through the day, getting solid slumber can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and depression; make you more alert; and help you process information faster. Follow these tips to treat your body to restorative sleep
.Skip the Nightcap
Just because your Uncle Ed always nods off after a few glasses of spiked eggnog doesn't mean that booze is a liquid lullaby. "Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but once your body begins to remove it from your system, it acts as a stimulant," says Donna Arand, Ph.D., clinical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Kettering Medical Center in Kettering, Ohio. "Four or five hours after your last drink, you'll wake up, and it will be hard to fall back to sleep." So instead of reaching for a glass of pinot noir, start a nighttime ritual that actually promotes sleep: Take a warm shower (when you step out, your body begins to cool off, a process it goes through before sleep) or sip a cup of decaf chamomile tea.
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for a better night's sleep.Breathe Easier
If you're one of the 12 million Americans with sleep apnea, you're about 80 percent more likely to feel sluggish during the day, no matter how many hours you sleep, Ojile says. The condition occurs when the soft tissue at the back of your throat blocks your airway during sleep, stopping your breathing and waking you up as many as hundreds of times a night. "Imagine how exhausted you'd feel if someone were constantly poking you awake," Ojile says. "Apnea deprives your brain of oxygen, increases your heart rate, and saps your energy levels."
Two common signs of apnea: loud snoring and, more seriously, waking up to the feeling that you're choking. If you experience either of these symptoms, visit your doctor and start sleeping on your side instead of your back with your head propped up on two or three pillows. "If you rest your upper body at a 30-degree or greater incline, it may make a more direct path for air to move in and out of the lungs," Arand says.
Though it won't cure sleep apnea, using a neti pot (a ceramic vessel used to flush sinuses with a salt/water solution) daily can make breathing easier. Japanese researchers found that people with obstructed nasal passages were twice as likely to experience daytime fatigue as those with clear passageways.
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.Reschedule Your Sweat Sessions
Exercise will help improve the quality of your sleep — if you time it right. Working out late in the day can actually leave you staring at the ceiling in bed, since it can take three to four hours for your body to cool itself afterward. "When your core body temperature is too high and your heart rate is too fast, it can keep you awake," Ojile says. It's better to exercise at least four hours before bedtime. Better yet, hit the gym in the morning or at lunch — you'll feel the energy-boosting effects for hours.