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Find Your Sleep Sweet Spot

our steps to finding the perfect sleep number for you — and then sticking with it!

Work is crazy, the kids are extra rambunctious, and you’ve booked your regular bike at tomorrow’s rooster class. Something’s got to give, and too often it’s your sleep that is sacrificed. While missing out on something you enjoy or find important is the worst, so is being completely and utterly exhausted.

No surprises here, but logging enough sleep will help power through your SoulCycle ride. Operating on too little sleep leads to a less-than-stellar workout (although you probably already knew that!). When your mind is foggy and energy levels dip, you just won’t have the physical or mental stamina to really give it your all during class.

Chronic sleep deprivation has also been linked to health concerns such as increased risk of obesity, depression, and heart disease. And while you might be able to push through a tough class when you’re exhausted, you’re potentially putting yourself at risk for developing a cold or flu — and that’ll set your training schedule back a few days or weeks. New research from a small study on identical twins found that the sibling who chronically logged less shut-eye had a weaker immune system, leaving them more susceptible to getting sick.

So how much sleep do you really need to operate at full capacity? (Name one person who hasn’t asked themselves that at least once a day.) The short answer is that everyone requires a different amount of sleep. Here are four steps to finding the sleep sweet spot that’s right for you:

1. Start with the general guidelines.

The latest report from the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to hours of sleep per night for adults between the ages of 26-64, and seven to eight hours per night for adults over 65. If you’re regularly hitting these marks and feel great, gold star for you! Of course these are just suggested starting points — you may feel fully functional with less sleep, or require a little more.

2. Pay attention to how you feel.

Are you begging for a nap around 3:00 PM or have trouble staying focused? A lack of sleep may be to blame. As with most things in life you want to look for cues — if you’re feeling lethargic, make a few sacrifices and try heading to bed earlier for a few nights. If you notice energy levels are skyrocketing, it’s probably a sign that you require additional zzzs.

3. Keep a sleep diary.

Data rules and being tired drools! Understanding your sleep habits and patterns will help you identify where you can make improvements. Your sleep diary should track information such as what time you went to bed, how many times you woke up during the night, how long you spent asleep, and length of any naps you took during the day. You’ll also want to keep a column of how you felt during the day and when you woke up. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School put together this handy printable sleep log to help get you started.

4. Finally, be willing to experiment.

Taking a "sleep vacation" is one of the best ways to determine how much sleep your body requires, notes the team at Harvard Medical School. Give it a try by going to sleep at the same time every night for two weeks and allowing your body to wake itself up…without an alarm clock! You’ll find that your body starts operating on a natural pattern — and that’s the sleep number you should aim for as often as possible.

Once you’ve found your sleep sweet spot — that magical number of hours that has you feeling refreshed when you wake up and energized throughout your busy day — work backwards to determine your bedtime.

The glorious bonus: Logging enough sleep can help improve your workout, and working out can help improve the quality of your sleep. Win-win.

Questions or comments? Email! Want to ride? Click HERE to grab a series and book a bike!

Article by Bari Lieberman
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