Are You Sleeping Right?

Inadequate rest can disrupt your ability to regulate hormones, including insulin, cortisol, ghrelin, and leptin, which affect energy. So make the most of what you get. Test your zzz IQ, courtesy of Stuart F. Quan, M.D., professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School.

True or False?
You can catch up on weekends.

False. Consistency is key—without it, you may experience the grogginess some experts call social jet lag. Plus, according to a Penn State study, trying to repay your "sleep debt" won't improve brain function. Aim for eight hours all seven days.

True or False?
Snoring is just an annoyance.

False. It may be a sign of sleep apnea, a breathing issue that disrupts deep slumber (twice as many men as women have it). Lying on your side or elevating your head helps; ditto for ditching cigarettes and losing weight.

True or False?
Power naps are a good thing.

Trick question. "If you're not having problems sleeping, you shouldn't feel the need to nap," Quan says. Still dragging? Go ahead, but keep it to under 45 minutes or you'll enter the stage before REM and wake dazed.

True or False?
Drinking before bed is fine.

False. Alcohol is a depressant; it may make you tired, but lots of booze can reduce REM sleep, causing restlessness. "The amount that affects shut-eye depends on the person, but one drink should be okay," Quan says.

Exercise to Energize
Too tired to go to the gym? Activity is exactly what you need. Thanks to increases in neurotransmitters such as dopamine, you'll feel more invigorated for up to 40 minutes after a sweat session, and regularly working out boosts overall energy by 20 percent. What's more: A less strenuous routine offers better results, says Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at the University of Georgia. "Cramming in a brutal workout can leave you exhausted and set you up for injury," he says. Instead, perform 20 to 40 minutes of moderate jogging, strength training, or yoga. Studies show that this amount of time and level of intensity will help your brain and body feel uplifted, not overwhelmed. For a quick reset, try a minute of vigorous exercise, like holding a plank—the science isn't in yet, but it appears that short and intense workouts can give you an immediate fix.

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Quick Ways to Beat Fatigue

1. Chew Gum: Researchers in the U.K. have determined that popping a piece can cut down on reaction times and increase attention.

2. Drink water: Losing as little as 1.5 percent of your body weight to dehydration can make you feel sleepy and unfocused. Drink enough to keep your urine light yellow—around eight cups a day.

3. Get an air purifier: Danish research revealed that people who worked in environments where they controlled the temperature and air quality showed improved performance and alertness.

4. Take a breath (or four): "Three minutes of measured inhales and exhales will rejuvenate your mind and take the edge off of stressful situations," says Joseph Amanbir Young, an acupuncturist and Kundalini yoga instructor. Sniff in four times to fill your lungs, hold, then exhale through your nose in four parts.

5. Practice acupressure: According to the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, pressing at the point known in Chinese medicine as zu san li can help you feel more alert. Locate a spot four fingers' width below your kneecap on the outer part of the shin bone; apply downward pressure and massage for four or five seconds.

6. Choose peppermint scents: In a British study, the smell of peppermint improved participants' memories and increased their alertness, while a more floral odor had the opposite effect.

MEDICAL REASONS, NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS, AND DEPRESSION →