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Sometimes, the difference between a productive day and a waste of time is in an hour: an extra hour of sleep, an extra hour of exercise or a full hour of work can have a big impact on how you work and live.
Almost all of us do it. We get up early to go to the gym. We slept late to answer work emails. Or we see nonstop Netflix in bed.
In different ways, we usually postpone the dream or remove relevance. However, if you want to be healthier, you need to give yourself time to sleep. Because if you manage to snuggle up just one more hour, you’ll probably feel better, you’ll look better and be better at your job.
But an extra hour should be just the beginning, experts warn. The real benefits come from establishing an optimal sleep schedule – and following it at all costs.
Why it is important not to skimp
It turns out that the benefits of sleeping more – and more consistently – are diverse and abundant.
“You will feel better, you will have more energy, you will have better ideas, you will contribute to your team or organization in a better way,” says Rachel Salas, associate professor of neurology who specializes in sleep medicine and sleep disorders in the Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
“Your mood will improve and you will have more reasons to participate and share ideas,” he says. In addition, sleeping properly will also be reflected on your exterior because when you skimp on sleep you can “gain weight and look tired with bags under your eyes”.
In 2013, the BBC partnered with the Sleep Research Center of the University of Surrey to conduct an experiment in which it was discovered that an extra hour of sleep improved the mental agility of participants in computer tests.
But multiple studies make it clear that optimizing sleep involves much more than staying wrapped up for another hour. The dream is fundamental, it is not something that is added to convenience.
A study in the United States at the end of last year showed that students who slept eight hours at night performed better on final exams. Another from the University of Michigan, in October, revealed that lack of sleep affects memory and work performance in areas as varied as baking and surgery.
Another study showed that two nights in a row of sleeping less than six hours can make you feel lethargic during the next six days. And a Swedish study published this year, in which 40,000 participants were observed for 13 years, found that those who slept short periods had higher mortality rates than those who did not. Especially among those over 65 years old.
Most people know that sleeping more is good. The problem is that life-work, children, friends, exercise-usually avoids it. And as they manage to be functional on a day-to-day basis, many end up underestimating the power of an extra hour.
So you can sleep six hours a night and assume it’s all the dream you need. But according to the experts that is a big mistake.
Sometimes, says Professor Salas, bad habits are carried for so long that many end up with accumulated health problems.
Some of the problems that arise in the long term may be weight gain, migraines and constant fatigue. It can also be sleep apnea or even what she calls “microsleepy”: when your brain goes off briefly during the day -for only a few seconds-, sometimes with your eyes open and that represents an obvious danger for drivers.
The importance of consistency
But what is better, an extra hour of sleep or a consistent schedule of sleep? According to Salas, we should be doing l a s two things .
Reut Gruber, associate professor of psychiatry at the Sleep Laboratory at McGill University in Montreal, says that while there is no magic number that people should reach, there is a way to calculate how many hours of sleep are ideal for each person.
When you are on vacation or do not have commitments the next day, go to sleep at a reasonable time and wake up naturally – without alarm. Take note of how many hours you slept: that number is your new nighttime goal. It also takes into account when you fall asleep and when you wake up. Those hours are important.
“Once you have determined this number, stick to it at all costs,” says Gruber. “Program everything so you can go to bed on time “ and stay on the schedule in which your body naturally woke up.
That could well be an extra hour, but for many it could be more. According to experts, many people lack sufficient sleep and do not even know it. If you are sleeping four hours a night, you probably need many more hours to function naturally.
There are conditions, of course: the decisions you make during the day dictate how well you will sleep when you put this to the test on your own. This means avoiding excessive amounts of coffee or alcohol, which can affect the circadian rhythm of your body – the internal clock that determines what time you sleep naturally and wake up.
Gruber also says that adults should aim to do 150 minutes of aerobic exercises a week to rest more.
“It’s finding the balance,” says Gruber. “To be healthy, you need to be active .”
You may be surprised how long you end up sleeping, but, according to Sigrid Veasey, a professor of medicine at the Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, “if you can sleep, you need sleep.” People should “take the time out of Instagram” and stick to their schedule, he says. She tried.
“I went to sleep at 11 and I woke up at seven, even on weekends,” he says. “I did not nap, I was going to do it for two weeks, I remember that after five days it was so deep (his dream) that I thought: ‘Wow, I did not sleep that well since high school'”.
Respect your rhythm
Once you determine your natural sleep schedule, staying on course with your internal clock makes all the difference.
“Even if you sleep 10 hours, while not aligned with your circadian rhythm, you could end up functioning as a person who lacks sleep,” says Salas. You can add an hour or more, but unless you’re programming it in sync with your natural hours of sleeping and waking up, you’re probably not resting properly. “
“People have a very poor judgment about how much sleep they need,” says Veasey. “Until you allow yourself to sleep a little more and you think: ‘I’m flying in my day, doing things, feeling more interest in people, with better spirit and I can concentrate better.’
If you still feel lethargic after starting to sleep more, experts warn that this could be a sign of a more pressing health problem. But improving your sleep is one of those monumental health decisions that can give you a great benefit, says Salas. “It is one of things that addresses all aspects and medical domains.”
Taking the time to determine how much sleep your body needs – and abide by it – could be one of the best investments you can make. Showing keenness at work is great, but being alive is much better.
“People who are deprived of sleep end up in car accidents, can you imagine having a brain surgeon with a lack of sleep?” Says Salas. ” That is the difference between life and death .”