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What's Up Magazine

Golden Slumber

Sep 03, 2014 12:14PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Mankind (and womankind and kidkind) need a good night’s sleep. Conventional wisdom dictates that grownups get between seven and eight hours sleep a night. However, that’s just not happening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “insufficient sleep has become a public health epidemic.”

The CDC points out that we should all be concerned with “sleep insufficiencies linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and occupational errors.” But they add that there is also mounting evidence that “persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.”

How can we fix this? If the situation concerns serious issue of sleep apnea, see the article below, “The Snore You Can’t Ignore.” For the rest of us, According to a recent Harvard Medical School publication A Plan for Successful Aging, there are simple steps which can help you overcome general sleep difficulties, including insomnia.

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule and routine.
  • Use the bed only for sleep and sex. Enough said.
  • Cut down on caffeine. Even a single cup in the morning can cause sleeplessness for some people.
  • Be physically active. Exercises such as walking, running, or swimming provide three important sleep benefits: you fall asleep faster, attain a higher percentage of restorative deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night.
  • Limit daytime naps.
  • If you use tobacco of any kind, quit. Nicotine makes it harder to fall asleep.
  • Use alcohol cautiously. Alcohol depresses the nervous system, so a nightcap may help some people fall asleep. But this effect disappears after a few hours and may lead to waking up throughout the night. Alcohol can also worsen snoring and other sleep breathing problems.
  • Improve your sleep surroundings. Remove the television, telephone, and office equipment from the bedroom. This reinforces the idea that this room is meant for sleeping. An ideal environment is quiet, dark, and relatively cool, with a comfortable bed and minimal clutter.
  • If you are still awake after 20 minutes in bed, get up and read awhile to relax. Otherwise, you’ll set yourself up for tossing and turning.
  • Try to avoid taking sleeping pills. If you do take a prescription sleep medicine, work with your doctor to use it effectively and for as short a time as possible. —S.H.