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New research has found that less sleep = shorter life. Here’s how to change that

Get good sleep

Would you go to work drunk? Didn’t think so. But one sleep doctor, Harvard’s Josna Adusumilli, recently said some of us might as well do exactly that. She claims many people go to the office on as little as six hours’ sleep each night – which, when done regularly, has the same detrimental effect on physical and mental performance as turning up three sheets to the wind.

Medical experts all agree that sleep is essential, for health and sanity – which might not sound like good news if, like many of us, you live in a world where ‘I’m tired’ is practically the new ‘hello’. In an interview with The Observer this week, Matthew Walker, the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, even said that there is evidence that lack of sleep can actually reduce your life expectancy. He has found that it’s linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart attacks and Alzheimer’s amongst other things.

As a result, it really is more important than ever to take your sleep seriously. If you’ve forgotten how to sleep well, here’s what you need to know to get back on track.

Do you really need 8 hours’ sleep?

“Most people need somewhere between seven to nine hours,” says Dr Sophie Bostock, health psychologist from sleep app creators Sleepio. Within that, exactly how much, or how well we sleep, can be determined by many different factors; it’s genetic (and about 1% of the population actually possess genes that mean they can get away with as little as four hours). Women tend to sleep less effectively than men, and need about an extra 20 minutes a day, and as we age, our quality of sleep improves so we actually need less to feel restored. So, how do you know how much is right for you? There’s no definitive test, but the five questions below will teach you how to read your body’s signals.

Do you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow?

Actually, it should take about 15 minutes after getting into bed to drop off. “If you fall asleep quicker, you’re sleep deprived; if you take longer than 30 minutes, you’re sleeping more than you need – or something like stress is possibly interfering,” says Dr Bostock.

Do you need an alarm clock to wake you up?

Unless you have to get up at an unsociable hour like 4am, Dr Bostock says a sign of sleeping well is that you wake naturally before your alarm. Repeatedly hitting snooze says you’re not getting enough sleep.

Do you sleep more than one hour extra at weekends?

“Saying ‘yes’ is a sign you’re collecting a sleep debt in the week that your body is trying to make up for. When you’re sleeping the right amount for you, you should sleep the same number of hours all week,” says neurologist Dr Guy Leschziner from the Sleep Centre at London Bridge Hospital.

How do you feel at 11am?

The answer should be alert and energised, as this is the point in your circadian rhythm [a 24-hour cycle that tells your body when to sleep] when you should be most awake. “If you’re tired at this point in the day, you’re definitely not getting enough sleep – or something else is draining your energy,” says sleep specialist Dr Neil Stanley.

If you do feel tired, are you snappy, overly tearful, argumentative or more easily stressed?

Tiredness can be caused by lack of sleep or low energy, “but low energy doesn’t tend to be associated with an impact on emotional function,” says Dr Stanley. “That’s a sign that you’re lacking sleep.”

How to use the results

“Be your own scientist and test your theories,” says Dr Bostock. “If you think you might need more – or less – sleep, adjust things for a few weeks, then do the quiz again and see what improves.” But remember, the best results aren’t instant. “It takes a while to change your sleep clock,” says Dr Suveer Singh, sleep specialist and consultant in respiratory medicine at London’s Bupa Cromwell Hospital. “To move things by an hour or more, first bring your bedtime forward or back 15-30 minutes for a few nights and let your body adapt, then shift again if needed.”

Taken from GLAMOUR UK. Click here to read the original.

Dozing off at your desk? Here are 8 clever ways to wake yourself up when you’re literally falling asleep at work.

Glamour International