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Snooze You Lose?

Weekend Supplement

Like me, you probably worked right through National Sleep Awareness Week (March 5-11, 2007) this year. For many, lack of sleep is a source of pride. It seems to imply that what we are doing is too important for mere mortals. Getting the proper amount of sleep isn’t equated with a go-getter. Getting caught napping is downright embarrassing. Yet research shows that sleep is one of the most important activities of the productive person.

Professor Sara Mednick in Good Magazine asks, “Can afternoon naps save your life?” Apparently they can. “Scientists are discovering more and more evidence to suggest that a midday rest can improve your alertness, cognition, mood, cardiac health, and weight.”

Sleep affects your ability to learn and memory. Research would suggest that the more important you are the more sleep you should get. You need the extra time for your mind to process all you learn and do in a day.

Mednick continues:
We are in the midst of a fatigue epidemic that affects health, safety, productivity, and the bottom line. Sleep loss has been shown to increase our inflammatory and stress responses, which naps can bring back to normal levels.

It has been scientifically demonstrated that naps as short as five minutes long can improve alertness and certain memory processes. But the timing of naps is as important as their length. Imagine sleeping for just five minutes in the middle of the night and think about how you would feel upon waking. Probably pretty lousy. This is because all sleep is not equal. We are biologically programmed to sleep not only for a long period in the middle of the night but also for a short period in the middle of the day.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for adults. Here are some tips for good sleep:
  • Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) and nicotine (cigarettes, tobacco products) close to bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol as it can lead to disrupted sleep.
  • Exercise regularly, but complete your workout at least 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Establish a regular relaxing, not alerting, bedtime routine (e.g. taking a bath or relaxing in a hot tub).
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and preferably cool and comfortable.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that "a team of American and Greek researchers undertook an epidemiological study of 23,681 Greek adults with no history of heart disease, stroke, or cancer. They asked participants about the frequency and duration of their naps and about other variables that might affect heart health and found that those participants who napped regularly (three or more times a week, for 30 minutes or more) had a 37% lower risk of dying from heart disease. This finding was especially true for working men.

"Oftentimes getting adequate sleep at night is challenging. Napping offers a way to augment nighttime sleep, increase alertness, and possibly lower stress levels."

Take a nap!

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:06 PM
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