How Hard is it to Get Sleep in New York City, Really?

Sleep? Who needs sleep in New York? You know the line. It is the thing that this city never does.

Under-eye circles are our badges of honor, and massive coffee cups our constant crutch. In this metropolis of go-go-go, we refuse to give in to the weakness, the apparent unproductiveness of -- scoff! -- sleep.

Oh, but how skewed that mentality is, Tony Schwartz bemoans in a blog post on the Harvard Business Review.

"We continue to live by a remarkably durable myth: sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity," Schwartz, CEO and president of The Energy Project, writes in his blog. "In reality, the research suggests that even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a significant toll on our health, our mood, our cognitive capacity and our productivity."

Dr. Steven Y. Park, assistant clinical professor of otolaryngology at New York Medical College, and author of "Sleep, Interrupted," agrees.

"Everything is measurably worse: Memory, decision-making, executive function, reaction time," says Park, not to mention general health issues like anxiety and depression which "are pretty rampant in this city."

In fact, Park said in a phone interview with Go Healthy New York, there's a culture here that can wreak havoc on a night of quality sleep. "With the fast-paced social opportunities and activities, people tend to eat later, stay up later, go out later," he says. "That is very destructive to normal sleep habits."

The standard amount of recommended sleep is 7 to 8 hours, but quality of sleep is also a factor on its effectiveness. There are habits and issues particular to this city that negatively affects the quality of sleep, no matter how much you get, Park says. But there are also ways to address them:

- Late-night eating. Avoid eating anything three to four hours before bedtime -- this is the "first, most important thing," Park says. Eating late causes reflex issues that affect your breathing. You'll likely snore -- and snoring is a sign of bad sleep. 

- Late-night drinking. Skip the night cap. Sure, the drowsy buzz is a nice stop en route to Sleepville, but the muscle-relaxant quality of alcohol will cause you to stop breathing normally during sleep. And again, bad breathing means bad sleep.

- Allergies and congestion. Keep your airways open. It's not like you can do much to control the pollution and irritants in the air here, especially during allergy season, but there are ways to control your breathing during sleep -- nasal irrigation and Breathe-Right strips generally work, Park says, though some have to resort to surgery. Those with allergies can take over-the-counter medication.

What about the culture of "sleepless machismo"? Especially here, where "we get caught up in working long hours and getting more stressed," according to Park?

"There are creative ways to modify your lifestyle" in order to get sleep, Park say -- a dinner at work instead of at home, or a modification of the work schedule, for example. His patients generally don't follow all his recommendations -- but "with a little creativity and persistence," there's a way to make one or two or a few tweaks that go a long way.

"Sleep is More Important Than Food" [Harvard Business Review Blog] "Sleep, Interrupted"

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