New Year New You

Resolution #3: Get More Sleep

It’s 2016 and you’re still not getting enough sleep. Here’s how to finally get some.

By: Siobhan Reid

We don’t know about you, but for us, catching some ZZZs invariably means giving up those few precious hours we have left in our day to Tinder, drink, Netflix, and feed our online shopping addiction hobby. It could be 4 AM and our eyes will be straight up bleeding from the amount of light emitting off our iPhone, and yet we’ll still watch “just one more” episode of Master of None. So, there’s that.

For the most part, a self-administered treatment plan of power naps, triple shots of espresso and dabs of this brightening eye cream have kept our bosses off our backs and under the distinct impression that we’re actually concentrating on work as we stare blankly into space. But while we may have pulled a fast one on them, we definitely didn’t fool sleep specialists Dr. Michael Breus, author of bestselling book Beauty Sleep, and Dr. Janet Kennedy, founder of NYC Sleep Doctor and author of The Good Sleeper. After taking one look at our twitching, bloodshot eyes, they offered up their Rx for sleep success, explained the phenomenon of sleep-related performance anxiety, and gave us one more reason to wish Donald Trump would just go away.

 

What sleep looks like in a culture of control

 

 “Sleep is just not valued in our culture anymore. There’s a huge focus on productivity these days, especially in our work lives. We’re expected to bring our work home, stay connected and check for updates constantly. There are simply no boundaries between our lives and our screens anymore.”—Dr. Janet Kennedy

“For the general population, sleep is not a priority. It only becomes a priority when people are utterly exhausted, and even then, they have a hard time unplugging from their devices. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard my patients say, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead,’ and mean it.” —Dr. Michael Breus

 

How many hours you actually need a night

(don’t let Donald Trump tell you differently)

 

“In my practice it’s not uncommon for me to hear questions like, ‘Donald Trump says he only sleeps three to four hours a night. How can I run off as little sleep as him?’ The thing to realize is that sleep is a very individual thing, and a large part of it is genetically predetermined. Maybe you hit the genetic lottery like Trump and only require 4 hours of sleep a night, but chances are that’s not the case. Most people need around 7 hours each night. You’ll get your best sleep once you figure out what your happy number is and then sticking to it—not by modeling your sleep habits after someone else’s.”—Breus

 

A between-the-sheets battle of the sexes

 

“Women are classic multi-taskers. They take on many roles throughout their lifetime, both in their career and family lives. In general, I think that women just get more stuff done, so while I can’t point to any data that shows that women suffer from more sleep problems than men, I could definitely see how that would be the case.” — Breus

“When patients come to see me, they’re distressed about their sleep. In my experience, men and women experience sleep problems equally, their sleep anxiety just manifests in different ways. Men tend to view sleep problems in a much more singular way than women. They see it as a failure and a threat to their productivity. As multi-taskers, women fear losing their grasp on all the things they’re trying to juggle at any given moment in their life.” —Kennedy

 

 

Why chilling on the couch and watching Friends is always the right decision

 

“If you want to decompress before bedtime, consider turning on your actual TV set instead of your laptop, iPhone or tablet. When you’re propped up in bed with your phone, the light source is much closer to your face then it would be if you were watching something on the TV.  The stronger the light, the harder time you’ll have getting to bed. Also, on phones, we answer emails and play Candy Crush—activities that require a higher level of alertness and awake-ness than, say, lying on your back and watchingSeinfeld reruns on TV.”—Breus

 

On performance anxiety

 

“There are so many messages out there right now about the side effects of not getting enough sleep that it’s actually backfiring and creating more insomnia. People are terrified that if they don’t control their sleep, their health and productivity will fail. They think, ‘If I don’t get my sleep cycle on track in x number of days, I’ll be …’ fill in the blank—fat, unproductive at work, I’ll crash my car or get dementia. Like a job or a relationship, sleep becomes another performance.” —Kennedy

 

5 Ways to Get a Better Sleep Tonight

 

1.

Keep a diary

 

“We tend to selectively recall our bad nights much more than our good nights, so if you’re experiencing problems sleeping, consider keeping a sleep diary. It will allow you to objectively see what kind of problem you’re dealing with and then help a doctor determine the best course of action for fixing it.”—Kennedy

 

2.

Cut the booze

 

“It takes the average human an hour to process a single alcoholic beverage, so I generally advise my patients to stop drinking alcohol approximately three hours before bed. Also, while alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it actually keeps you out of a deeper stage of sleep.”—Breus

 

3.

Embrace separation anxiety

 

“I have a strict rule of no phones or tablets in the bedroom. If your phone is on your nightstand, the urge to check it will be too strong. You need at least an hour away from your phone before bed.”—Kennedy

 

4.

Get outside

 

“Make sure you’re soaking up 15 minutes of sunshine each morning. Sunlight resets your circadian clock and helps you to maintain good quality sleep at night.”—Breus

 

5.

Read a book

 

“Reading fiction before bedtime gives you a buffer between the day and night, and helps to clear extraneous thought from your head. Nonfiction or anything work or self-help-related will not have the same effect. You really need something immersive—something that feels like a luxury and takes you outside yourself.”—Kennedy

 

 

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