Small sleep changes for your health
Most people want to get more or better sleep. But besides just feeling refreshed when you wake up, working on your sleep habits can accomplish so much more to help your health. Getting up or going to bed earlier, taking a power nap, or stocking up on sleep can give you a better disposition, prepare your body for a gruelling challenge, and help you feel more alert.
For a more positive outlook: rise early
Turns out, the early bird really does get the worm. A review of studies published in 2019 in Nature Communications found that people are more genetically likely to rise early. They may have a specific genetic component that lowers their risk of developing depression. One possible explanation? “Exposure to morning light helps your body produce mood-enhancing serotonin,” says neurologist and sleep expert, Dr Chris Winter.
Begin by waking up earlier so you’ll be sure to feel sleepy earlier in the evening (no fair hitting the snooze button!) And throw open the shades or turn on some lamps as soon as you wake up. The light will decrease your body’s production of sleep-inducing melatonin, making you feel more alert.
To make it through an upcoming sleepless week: snooze more the week before
Of course, skimping on sleep is never a good idea, but if you know you won’t be able to get the recommended seven to eight hours for a few days – maybe because of a work project – you can ward off some of the negative effects by ‘banking’ extra shut-eye in advance.
In a 2015 study, published in the journal Sleep, people who did this scored better on cognitive tests than those who went through the week of shortened sleep without having logged extra Zzzs. During that first week, participants slept about two additional hours each night, averaging about eight hours total. Researchers suspect that routinely getting more sleep may prevent the accumulation of sleep debt.