Most of us have probably met (and envied) at least one of those mysterious people who never seem to be tired. We've sized them up through bleary eyes, and wondered how it is that they don't look like they spent 30 minutes battling with the snooze button this morning. The answer isn't necessarily that they have the luxury of more hours to sleep; instead, many of the most well-rested have some simple habits that help them achieve plenty of high-quality rest.
One thing they often have in common? Discipline. The body likes routine, which allows your natural circadian rhythms to kick in. And while it can be tempting to answer one more email or stay for one last round of drinks, well-rested people prioritize sleep the same way they know to do for diet and exercise. "It's maintaining a regimented sleep/wake cycle and protecting one's sleep," says Michael Decker, Ph.D., a sleep specialist and associate professor at Case Western School of Nursing.
Decker and Joe Ojile, M.D., founder and CEO of the Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis, Mo., shared some of the most common traits among the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
1. They do not sleep in
People often obsess about bedtimes, but one of the most important things in establishing a healthy sleep pattern is sticking to a regular wake time (and seeking bright light first thing in the morning). A steady wake up call sets your circadian rhythms, or internal clock, helping you to feel tired at the right time in the evening. "When you need to go to bed at night is, to a large degree, determined by when you get up and when you get light in the morning," Ojile says. "Even some nights if you can't get to bed on time, you should get up at your approximately same wake time."
And, sorry weekend binge sleepers, but that includes Saturdays and Sundays. Dramatically altering your sleep and wake times on your days off can throw your body clock out of whack, a phenomenon experts call "social jet lag." You might live in New York, but by Monday morning your body feels like it's traveled to California and back, disrupting your rhythms and setting you up for a week of bad sleep -- one you'll try to compensate for by oversleeping the next weekend, perpetuating a vicious cycle. (On top of that, research suggests "recovery sleep" might not be doing your brain any good.)
The good news? Getting the right amount of sleep all week means you won't need to play catch up on the weekends. "You've already, in effect, paid the sleep piper throughout the week," Ojile says. "It's almost like a bill you have to pay every day. People who don't have to pay down their sleep debt over the weekend have all that time to do other healthy behaviors."
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