12/02/2015 07:49 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2016

New Survey Explains the Importance of Sleep

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Are you a sleep worker? No, not a sleepwalker, but a person who goes to work and attempts to function on too little sleep? It turns out, one-third of American workers are sleep working -- not getting enough sleep to function at peak levels, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School.

On the home front, men and women experience interrupted sleep, but often for different reasons. Women are more than twice as likely to interrupt their sleep to care for others, and once they're up, they are awake longer: 44 minutes, compared with 30 minutes for men.

According to a new sleep survey conducted by One Poll, 1,000 people aged 18 - 55+ were asked a series of questions about their sleep habits. Here are some of the findings:

• 91 percent of the respondents revealed that they either always or sometimes wake up in the middle of the night.
• When asked about why they wake up in the middle of the night, 86% do so because of a temperature-related issue -- it's too hot or too cold in their bedroom or they pull up or kick off sheets to adjust for temperature.
• As a result, almost 40 percent of the participants said they felt exhausted when they woke up in the morning and another 36 percent reported feeling either irritated or frustrated. Not surprisingly, Monday is the day of the week most people reported waking up in a bad mood.
• People commonly attributed their irritability, poor eating habits, and forgetfulness to lack of sleep.

If you're one of the millions of people who have a difficult time either falling asleep or staying asleep, try one of these strategies:

Increase your diet of positive emotions. Our brains are hardwired to notice, seek out, and remember negative events and information. It's called the negativity bias. Negative emotions command your attention during the day and have physiological consequences that can interfere with sleep. According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, one of the world's leading researchers of the benefits of positive emotions, positive emotions are linked to biological markers of health. She states that, "With positivity you are literally steeped in a different biochemical stew." As a result, positivity brings better sleep. Fredrickson suggests that one way to enhance positive emotions is to pick a positive emotion and create a portfolio. I started a gratitude portfolio where I keep emails and notes from people I have worked with over the years. Those notes have helped me stay the course in my business on days when the world looks a little frustrating.

Develop more of a "stress helps" mindset. Sixty-two percent of the sleep survey respondents reported that stress often causes them to wake up in a bad mood. A new science of stress is emerging that challenges the often-reported notion that all stress is bad and debilitating. But if you're one of the many millions of people who really do think that stress is harmful, how to do you start to develop more of a "stress helps" mindset? According to psychologist Alia Crum, ARM yourself with this three-step process to help you practice a "stress helps" mindset:

1. (Acknowledge) stress when you experience it and notice how it impacts you psychologically and physically.
2. (Recognize) that stress is a response to something you care about. Try to connect to the positive motivation behind the stress.
3. (Make use) of the energy stress gives you.

Crum and her colleagues found that people who endorse a "stress helps" mindset report less depression and anxiety, higher levels of energy, work performance, and life satisfaction.

I recently mentioned the statistic about impairment after sleep loss on Twitter, and one of my followers responded with pride about how he has conditioned himself to function on four hours of sleep or less each day. We need to shift the prevailing "Time Macho" attitude about sleep toward a message that sleep is a serious building block of resilience and well-being.


Got stress? Here's some relief:

** Sign up for more strategies, tips and stories about how to manage stress, in my Strong Under Stress monthly newsletter

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Paula Davis-Laack is a Health o meter™ nuyu™ Brand Ambassador