Tips to be Fit: Sleep does the body good in staying alert

By Associated Press

Sleep, Fitness and Life Sleepiness Test

How likely are you to doze off in the situations mentioned below? Using the following scale, circle your answers, and then add up your total score.

0 = Would never doze, 1 = Slight chance of dozing, 2 = Moderate chance of dozing, 3 = High chance of dozing

1. Sitting and reading

2. Watching TV

3. Sitting inactive in a public place, such as at the theater or a meeting

4. As a car passenger for an hour without a break

5. Sitting quietly after a lunch without alcohol

6. Lying down to rest in the afternoon

7. Sitting and talking to someone

8. In a car, while stopped in traffic

Key to test at the end of the article

If you get the right amount of sleep you will get the most out of your fitness program and life. If you don’t get enough sleep your muscles will work less efficiently and you’ll stop making progress in your fitness program. Get less sleep than what you need and you’ll find yourself stressed more often and you’ll get sick more often. If you train you may need more than eight hours. To find out what you need keep a diary of your sleeping habits.

Record the time you go to bed, the time you wake-up, the total hours you sleep, your mental and physical state during the day; any naps and what you ate or drank before bed. After a few weeks review your diary. You should be able to get good idea of what helps or hinders you from getting the sleep you need.

Do you have a problem sleeping? You may have problem sleepiness if you:

consistently do not get enough sleep, get poor quality sleep, fall asleep while driving, struggle to stay awake when inactive, such as when watching television or reading, have difficulty paying attention or concentrating at work, school, or home, have performance problems at work or school, are often told by others that you are sleepy, have difficulty remembering, have slowed responses, have difficulty controlling your emotions or must take naps on most days.

Sleep problems can be due to the body’s natural daily sleep-wake cycles, inadequate sleep, sleep disorders, or certain drugs. Each day there are two periods when the body experiences a natural tendency toward sleepiness: during the late night hours (generally between midnight and 7 a.m.) and again during the mid-afternoon (generally between 1 and 4 p.m.). If people are awake during these times, they have a higher risk of falling asleep unintentionally, especially if they haven’t been getting enough sleep.

The amount of sleep needed each night varies among people. Each person needs a particular amount of sleep in order to be fully alert throughout the day. Research has shown that when healthy adults are allowed to sleep unrestricted, the average time slept is 8 to 8.5 hours. Some people need more than that to avoid problem sleepiness; others need less.

If a person does not get enough sleep, even on one night, a “sleep debt” begins to build and increases until enough sleep is obtained. Problem sleepiness occurs as the debt accumulates. Many people do not get enough sleep during the workweek and then sleep longer on the weekends or days off to reduce their sleep debt. If too much sleep has been lost, sleeping in on the weekend may not completely reverse the effects of not getting enough sleep during the week.

Children need the right amount of sleep too. Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. School-aged children 6 to 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Preschoolers need to sleep 10 and 13 hours a day including naps. Toddlers need to sleep 11 and 14 hours a day including naps. Babies need to sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day including naps.

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, and insomnia can cause problem sleepiness. Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, causing the individual to awaken many times during the night and experience problem sleepiness during the day. People with narcolepsy have excessive sleepiness during the day, even after sleeping enough at night. They may fall asleep at inappropriate times and places.