It’s time to quit being tired, once and for all. Here’s a step-by-step guide to improving the quality of your rest.
By Kayleen Schaefer; Photograph by Doron Gild
Determine Your Level of Tiredness
“People don’t accept that being tired is not normal,” says Dr. Barry Krakow, the medical director of the Sleep & Human Health Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Standard operating procedure is to drink as much caffeine as needed.” You should know how to spot the signs of fatigue. You might have a subpar workout or miss your jump shot during your weekly basketball game. You might lose interest in sex or feel depressed or anxious, all of which are symptoms of a lack of rest. If you allow yourself enough time to recharge, you should be able to skip a latte or two.
Figure Out How Much Sleep You Need
Most guys think they need a solid eight hours a night, but your body might not require that much. Dr. Michael Thorpy, of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, says patients often benefit from getting less sleep. The shorter span allows their bodies to eliminate lighter and broken sleep from the start of their slumber. Try going to bed 15 or 30 minutes later than usual for a couple of nights and see how you feel. But don’t snooze for less than six hours. “That’s the minimum,” says Dr. Michael Breus, the author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.
“People think of sleep as an on-off switch, and it’s not,” Breus says. “You don’t just close your eyes.” You have to get your body ready for bed. That doesn’t mean you need to do an hour of yoga at midnight. Get as much sun as you can during the day. Light tells your brain that it’s time to be awake, regulating your circadian rhythm, which prompts your body to shut down naturally after dark. Take a warm shower before bed. The decline in body temperature after you get out of the water invites dozing. And when you find yourself staring at the ceiling worrying about your 401(k), be patient: It takes about 15 minutes to conk out. Think about something bland instead. “When you get in bed, it’s quiet and dark and gives you a chance to think about every major problem in your life,” Breus says. “But that’s not a good idea.”
What to Do if You Can’t (or Don’t Have Time to) Sleep
If you keep nodding off and waking up, stay in bed. If you’re wired and you’ve been lying there for 15 minutes, get up. But don’t check your BlackBerry. Do something far less stimulating—like watching The Secret. “There will be an underlying circadian drive for sleep,” Thorpy says. “It’ll make you go back to bed.” What happens when your workload or social life cuts into your sleep? You can function on about five hours a night, Thorpy says, but as the week goes on, you’ll be less alert. “It’s possible to make up a portion of the debt by sleeping one to three extra hours on Sunday,” Breus says. Or by sneaking in a midday nap. A quick nap will do you some good—just keep in mind that after 20 minutes you go into deep sleep, so if you can’t afford a half-hour of the grade-A stuff, be sure to wake yourself before you get to it. Otherwise you’ll be back where you started—groggy and stupid.