Did you know your sleep style takes on a personality? Even if you are sleep-deprived, what you do in the hours before bedtime, whether you smoke or drink alcohol, even how much you weigh, can all affect how much and how well you sleep.
If your sleep isn't great right now, see if any of these "sleep styles" noted by the National Sleep Foundation sound like you.
Most poor sleepers fit into this category. You get up early, put in long hours on the job, and bring your work home, sometimes working almost up until bedtime. You know you don't get enough sleep, and neither does your partner. You try to make up for lost sleep on the weekend.
These tips may help:
- Power down before bedtime. It can be hard to resist the temptation to check your email one last time. "Computer screens emit a bright light that signals the brain to wake itself up," says Michael Decker, PhD, ABSM, who is the spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. So stop any computer work, emails, and other screen activities at least an hour before bed.
- Create a wind-down ritual. While you're awake, you may want to get things done. But relaxing can help set the stage for sleep. At least an hour before bedtime, read, listen to music, play with your pet, stretch, or do something else that relaxes you.
- Limit naps. "Naps and sleeping a little longer can help you catch up on the weekend, but that still leaves you sleepy throughout the week," says Russell Rosenberg, PhD. He is chairman of the National Sleep Foundation.
- Make sleep a priority. It's that simple, and that essential. Every night counts.
Overworked, Overweight, and Overcaffeinated
"These are people trying to cope with very high demands in their life," Rosenberg says. They tend to work the longest hours (often on night shifts or rotating shifts) and get the least sleep.
If this sounds like you, you probably think you function well on little sleep, though you likely also lean on caffeine. You're also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and be obese, and may well have trouble sleeping.
These tips may help:
- Limit caffeine to the morning. Its effects can last for hours after you drink it.
- Avoid alcohol 2 to 3 hours before bed. "Alcohol is a terrible sleep disrupter," Rosenberg says, even though it might make you feel sleepy at first.
- Stop smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant, notes Decker. It promotes inflammation in the back of the throat, which can lead to snoring or sleep apnea. Sleep apnea -- lapses in breathing during sleep -- is harmful itself and can lead to insomnia and other health problems.
- Lose extra weight. Here's another reason to shed extra pounds: Lack of sleep and obesity can go together. Being sleep deprived can affect your metabolism, and obesity can give you sleep apnea, a cause of insomnia. Working on your weight can pay off with your sleep, Rosenberg says.
- Get help for chronic insomnia. If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep 3 nights a week or more, and that persists even after you change your sleep habits, see your doctor.
Missing Sleep and Your Partner
You drag during the day and are sometimes too sleepy for intimacy.
You may sleep separately from your partner and you may worry. You may be depressed or anxious, too. You have a hard time falling asleep and sometimes use sleep medications.
These tips may help:
- Don't rely on over-the-counter sleep medications. Treating sleep problems usually involves lifestyle changes, building better sleep habits, and treating any conditions that are affecting your sleep.
- If you're depressed, get help. Sleep and depression have a complex link. Depression can cause sleep problems and vice versa. Insomnia is especially common with depression, and treatment can ease both.
- Share your bedroom. Most partners want to sleep in the same room. Start working on the issues that keep you apart.
Healthy, Lively Larks and Sleep-Savvy Seniors
These two types of sleepers are least likely to have sleep problems and most likely to get enough – or more than enough -- sleep. They rarely or never feel tired. If you're a lively lark, you're probably a young, early riser and don't have any medical conditions. If you're a savvy senior, you may be retired, get up later than average, and supplement nighttime sleep with naps.
This tip may help:
- Don't take sleep for granted. Keep up good sleep habits, especially as you age. "When you're younger, you may be able to have two pots of coffee in the afternoon and sleep fine, but abuse of stimulants can catch up with you and cause problems later," Rosenberg says.