Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dealing with Sleep Problems

By Sarah Gilbert

Everyone has sleepless nights from time to time. However, many have chronic sleep problems that preclude a good night's rest which is essential for protection against diabetes, weight gain, and cranky mornings. Clocking 7 to 8 hours also reduces your risk of colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

On the other hand, poor sleep triggers inflammation and ups the chances of dangerous blood clots and hypertension. Sleeping pills add other risks, especially with age, often leading to daytime drowsiness, memory problems and scary falls.

More than 70 different kinds of sleep disorders exist, the most common are: sleep deprivation, insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome (RLS). If sleep difficulties persist, a visit to a healthcare provider for a medical evaluation is necessary.

Bedtime Habits

Going to bed at the same time every night, including weekends, establishes a routine that helps the body and mind wind down at the end of the day. This, in turn, can improve the quality of sleep and help avert excessive daytime sleepiness.

Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and routines that are established around bedtime. Good sleep hygiene choices, such as having a consistent bedtime and engaging in relaxing activities in the evening, can improve sleep quality. Poor sleep hygiene choices, such as watching television in bed, exercising too close to bedtime, or consuming alcohol or caffeine in the evening hinder the ability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.

Consider Lifestyle

Stressful situations, such as financial troubles, family problems, loss of employment, and difficulties at work or school can prevent a good night's rest. If short-term stress is affecting sleep, take extra measures to relax and unwind before bedtime.

Sleep Better Naturally

* Spend less time in bed. Train your brain to link bed only with sleep-- not with watching TV, answering e-mail, or paying bills. Do that elsewhere.

* Do not hit the sack until really sleepy. This eliminates the temptation to do stuff there that disrupts shut-eye. Exercise in the morning to nod off easily at night.

* If sleep is elusive, get up. Read a book until drowsiness creeps in again or do some slow, gentle stretches and deep breathing. Or try scent like lavander.

* Hop out of bed at the same time every day. Sticking to a regular wake-up schedule, even on weekends, gets the body in a healthy, consistent sleep rhythm.

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