5 Signs You're Sleeping All Wrong

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When you've had a night of really bad sleep, or just too little sleep, you know it. But sometimes there are more subtle signs that you're not getting the high-quality shut-eye you need to function at your peak. These clues might mean you need to reevaluate your sleep game.

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Your pillows stay in place
No matter what your favorite position is (we're just talking about sleeping... for now), you can probably do it better with a strategically placed pillow. If you sleep on your side, wedge the pillow between your knees, or under your knees for sleeping on your back. If you sleep on your stomach, put it under your pelvis. The goals are to keep your spine aligned and take stress off your lower back -- pretty clutch for feeling better the next day, and for long-term back health.

Your sleep schedule is nonexistent
Having an irregular sleep schedule messes with your body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm. Not only can this cause insomnia, but it also affects your metabolism. "Even though the master clock for circadian rhythms is in the brain, there are 24-hour clocks throughout the body," explains Dr. Edward F. Pace-Schott, a sleep expert at Harvard. "In that 24 hours, they're supposed to be doing certain things at certain times." For example, your body isn't in the right mode for handling food when you get 3am pizza delivery. Without a regular sleep schedule, you're increasing your risk for obesity and chronic conditions like type II diabetes down the road.

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You don't believe in napping
Sure, you might not be able to snooze in the middle of a workday, but when you can do it, the power nap is gold. Assistant Professor of the Department of Psychology Dr. Sarah Mednick and her team performed a range of studies that showed the positive effects of napping on visual memory, verbal memory, and creativity. They even showed that a nap is superior to a cup of coffee!

You "wake up slowly" by hitting snooze
The thing is, you're not really waking up slowly, you're just giving yourself less time for real sleep. Throughout the night, you cycle through five sleep stages: Stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Each consecutive stage -- from wakefulness, to deep sleep, to dreaming -- has an important role, and they all work together to make sleep restorative. You're looking at an average of a little more than 90 minutes per sleep cycle. How long do you have between lunges for the snooze button? The 10-minute increments you're getting after your first alarm really aren't beneficial to you, and you can bet that alarm isn't beneficial to your bedmate or your roommate!

Take advantage of the I-don't-need-to-be-up-just-yet period: If you set your alarm to the time you really do need to get your butt out of bed, your body has more time to cycle through the sleep stages uninterrupted.

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Your furry friend has bed privileges
Your pet is lucky, but unfortunately it may be at the cost of your sleep. At the SLEEP 2014 conference in Minneapolis, Dr. Sowjanya Duthuluru and her colleagues presented a poster of their study on sleeping with pets. They conducted surveys with 148 pet owners, asking them a series of questions about sleeping with cats and dogs -- they even asked if their pets snored! The survey showed that 63% of respondents had their pets sleep in bed with them more than half the week and also responded that they had poor sleep quality. If your pet is waking you up at night, your sleep cycles are getting interrupted, and that can add up.

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