Think you can learn to survive on less than six hours of sleep a night? Think again. Getting just two to three hours too little sleep for a few nights can have the same effect as pulling an all-nighter, yet it's something that many Americans routinely do. Adults typically need seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night to function at their best. So we've rounded up some sound advice for getting to sleep fast and getting the most out of your time in bed.
60 Second Guide
An easy way to fall asleep faster and sleep soundly? Kick the covers off the end of the bed and keep one or both feet outside of your top sheet or blanket. Sleep researchers know that right before you fall asleep, your body temperature starts to drop. And in the deepest stages of sleep, your body's at its coolest—about one or two degrees below normal—so this just jumpstarts the process. But trust us, it works.
Having sex releases a number of biochemicals—including prolactin, oxytocin and vasopressin—that make you tired. But you likely already know this from experience.
Sleep More, Lose Weight
"Sleep is actually the best diet there is," says James B. Maas, Ph.D., author of Sleep for Success. "Research shows that if you sleep just one extra hour a night, you can lose a pound a week." Those are big claims, but according to a University of Colorado study, sleep-deprived subjects regularly ate more calories than those who got ample shuteye. This is because lack of sleep effects appetite-controlling hormones. Plus, staying up late just offers more time to snack.
Lay Off the Snooze
Those stolen moments after your alarm has gone off—as good as they feel at the time—will screw up your entire day. When you hit the snooze button, your body settles back into sleep. Rafael Pelayo, MD, a sleep specialist at Stanford University, says that when your alarm goes off again, it shocks your body and brain, resulting in that groggy feeling called sleep inertia, which can last for hours. Pelayo recommends setting your alarm for the time you'd typically snooze to (when you really have to be up), then actually getting up right when it goes off.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, light is a powerful cue that sends wake-up messages to the brain, suppressing the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and making it harder to fall (and stay) asleep. They suggest surveying your room for sources of artificial light, from outside street lamps to the glow from the power buttons from electronics and eliminating them by blocking them from your view.
A shortage of sleep is to blame for some 100,000 traffic accidents, 76,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths a year.