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4 Sleep Routine Tweaks You Can Make to Transform Your Health and Mood

Want to have more energy? Be more positive? Log a faster 5K? Here’s how to sharpen your sleep habits to accomplish them.


For a more positive outlook: Rise early

In a study from the journal Emotion of more than 800 adults aged 17 to 79, people who call themselves early risers reported more positive emotions (feeling peppy, cheerful, and active) than night owls. Extreme morning types—those who woke between 5 and 6:30 a.m.—were the happiest. “Exposure to morning light helps your body produce mood-enhancing serotonin,” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, director of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Charlottesville, Virginia.


To make it through a sleepless week: Snooze more the week before

Of course, skimping on sleep is never a good idea, but if you know you won’t be able to get the recommended seven to eight hours for a few days—say, because of a business trip or a work deadline—you can log extra shuteye the week before. In a study in the journal Sleep, people who did this scored better on cognitive tests than people who went through the week of shortened sleep without having slept extra the week before. During that first week, participants slept about two additional hours each night, averaging about 8 hours total. Researchers suspect that routinely obtaining more sleep may prevent the accumulation of sleep debt.


To feel more alert: Log a mid-afternoon power nap

When first-year medical residents rested for 20 minutes (8.4 of which was spent in sleep on average) mid-afternoon, they were more alert and scored better on mental tasks than peers who rested but stayed awake, per a study from Academic Medicine. For an ideal energy jolt, plan that nap between 1 and 2 p.m. when your body clock is naturally sleepiest. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes or you could interrupt your nighttime sleep or experience sleep inertia, where you wake up feeling completely groggy. That nap can also help you retain new information, says Penelope A. Lewis, PhD, neuroscientist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and author of The Secret World of Sleep. That could benefit you if you’re making a presentation that afternoon where you have to remember certain points.


To log a faster 5K: Go to bed earlier

In a Stanford University study, male basketball players who were encouraged to sleep as long as possible with a minimum goal of 10 hours a night (most averaged 8.5 hours, though) over a five- to seven-week period improved their free throw shooting accuracy and sprint times. Even if you’re a recreational athlete training for an event like a 5K, your body will naturally need more sleep, which could benefit your physical performance. “When you get the proper amount of sleep, your glucose metabolism increases, which gives you more energy. Cortisol levels decrease to reduce stress. Growth hormones increase, which benefit muscle and bone development, and variables like reaction time, coordination, and recovery speed improve,” says James B. Maas, PhD, international sleep educator and co-author of Sleep to Win! He says research has found that sleep deprivation is responsible for 90 percent of overtraining injuries.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest