Don't snooze? You lose

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

There's nothing like the results of a brand-new sleep study to reaffirm the fact that I am bad at sleeping. It's not that I can't — I do, every night. And through several snooze alarms the each morning.

No matter what evidence comes out about the various health risks too little/too much sleep can pose (and side effects with more catastrophic effects, as Gary Tetz pointed out last week), I don't really change my habits. If a study came out today that found sleeping in my exact position of choice (on my stomach like a starfish, iPhone floating around somewhere in the pillows) had disastrous side effects, I can't say that I'd change anything.

Last week we covered a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that analyzed a nationally representative sample of workers to find out how varying work hours affected their sleep and health.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that night-shift workers are at the highest risk of poor sleep, and sleep-related issues like insomnia.

But the CDC study didn't exactly give the day-shift crowd a clean bill of health, either. Day-shift workers still reported experiencing insomnia and other sleep issues, with nearly 20% of all employees saying they had poor sleep quality. Women workers also fared worse, with longer sleep times but worse scores on sleep quality, insomnia and impaired sleep-related activities of daily living than men.

Just about the time we ran the CDC study story, a slightly older article crossed my radar singing the praises of going to bed and waking up early. Apparently hitting the hay at 10 p.m. and getting up at 5 a.m. — the favorite sleep schedule of some of the world's most powerful business people — is the key to staying productive and energetic at work. Experts even went so far as to call it “the single most powerful performance-enhancing thing you can do,” since it helps manage moods, improves memory and helps regulate the hormones.

Sounds promising, right? Let me be the first to tell you it's easier said than done. I tried it myself the other night and found falling asleep that early pretty hard. I found myself feeling refreshed and happy when I woke up, but it wasn't at 5 a.m. — it was at 3, when one of my neighbors decided to have a loud conversation on the street outside. When that 5 a.m. alarm went off, I was feeling less than excited to greet the day.

So I most likely won't be overhauling my sleep schedule any time soon. But in the days since I attempted the 10-5 trick, I've found myself more aware of my sleep schedule and the things that impact it.

That mindfulness — not some drastic schedule shift that might not even be possible with your work schedule — could still provide the health and energy benefits that these CEOs swear by.

And who wouldn't welcome a little more stamina or pep in their step during a long work day?

Follow Emily Mongan @emmongan.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.