If you want to get more sleep, you have to start getting up early, says Dr. William Tarrant.
He’s the chief medical officer of Sleep Health Inc., a nonprofit sleep-tracking and sleep research firm.
It’s the first time in history that the number of Americans who report being in bed more than half an hour a night has surpassed the national average, according to a recent study published in the journal Sleep.
Dr. Tarrants study found that those who report having been up at least an hour longer than average a day are five times more likely to fall asleep at night.
It also found that people who wake up earlier are more likely than those who stay up late to fall into a deep sleep.
The results come as more Americans are getting back into bed after a short nap or two.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more than one in five adults, or 18 million, reported sleeping less than an hour at night last year.
It may sound like a small number, but if you have been snoozing or falling asleep too late, you may not be getting enough rest to feel rested and awake at night, says Tarrance, who is the director of SleepHealth.
That’s why Dr. Brian Krebs, co-founder of the online medical site Sleep.com, has written a book called Why We Sleep: The Science of Why You Should.
In it, he outlines the importance of waking up early in the evening.
According the study, when people report waking up at night after sleeping less then an hour, they are about 30 percent more likely on average to fall back into deep sleep than people who report waking early.
That makes sense, says Krebs.
If you’re waking up after an hour or so, you’re probably tired and need some rest, he says.
Sleep and your health sleep schedule “is the biggest predictor of sleep quality,” says Tarek Zaki, a sleep specialist at Northwestern University in Chicago.
And a lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of a variety of conditions including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and depression.
That may explain why so many people have trouble falling asleep, says Michael Grech, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University.
He says that sleep problems can be a sign of other health problems, like poor immune function, low blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, depression, low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and an inability to feel tired.
For example, when you’re stressed out, your body may not respond well to the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
If that’s not enough, you might also be more likely in the short term to have sleep apnea, a breathing disorder in which your body doesn’t fully relax after you stop breathing.
If this is the case, it can lead to a lot of breathing difficulties.
And even if you do fall asleep, the effects can linger for days or even weeks, says Grech.
“There are probably ways to mitigate that risk, but the bottom line is that you’re still getting up at a really high rate of frequency,” he says, and the sleep that you get at night is likely to be less than optimal.
So, is sleeping late really bad?
There’s no single answer, says Peter A. Schmalz, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh.
However, he does offer a couple of recommendations.
“It’s important to wake up early enough, and you should be up later than usual, but it’s not a problem if you’re up later,” says Schmal, who has studied the effects of sleep on sleep-wake cycles and circadian rhythms for 30 years.
He also suggests that people with a healthy circadian rhythm should sleep between 8 and 10 hours a night.
But, he adds, if you are tired at night and have been up too early, you need to wake yourself up.
“The circadian rhythm is a pretty complex system and if you don’t have it working correctly you’re going to wake somebody up,” he adds.
Also, if your body can’t get the rest it needs, then you need a nap, says Schmalz.
“Don’t do anything unless you really need to.”
So, what do you do?
If you have trouble waking up late, there are ways to minimize the risk of falling asleep.
Take a nap to help keep your body cool.
You should also exercise or take a short walk.
You can also try getting up earlier in the day to get a little more sleep.
Dr Tarrantly says he thinks this is a good idea.
“If you have a normal sleep pattern, if the body is getting enough energy from the night before, then it’s probably fine to be up earlier,” he said.
Dr Zaki agrees.
“I think if you start getting back in bed early, it’s good to do that,” he suggests.
“And if you wake up late you’re getting the rest you need.”
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