Better Sleep

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When the clock strikes midnight, are you usually burrowed into a blanket, deep in a dream, or are you tossing and turning, unable to put aside the stresses of the day and just go to sleep?

If you have sleep problems, you have plenty of bleary-eyed company. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 60% of adults have trouble sleeping at least a few nights a week.

Everyone’s sleep requirement is unique, but most people need at least eight hours a night to feel refreshed. Interestingly, tests of people who claimed to function well on much less shut-eye showed that very few actually could.

Too little sleep makes concentration difficult. In your exhausted state, you’ll find it harder to make decisions, solve problems, and listen attentively. Lack of sound sleep will also affect your mood, contributing to irritability and depression. Being exhausted can weaken your immune system as well, making you vulnerable to cold and flu bugs when the season for respiratory infections arrives.

And now we can add weight gain to the list. A16-year study (part of the famed Nurses Health Study) followed the sleep habits of 68,000 women and linked weight gain to those getting five hours or less sleep per night.

Telltale signs of too little sleep The most obvious is the willingness to give up everything you own just to sleep a few more hours when the alarm clock goes off in the morning. In fact, just needing an alarm clock to force yourself out of bed is a sign you’re not getting enough sleep. In a perfect world, you should wake up without mechanical assistance, feeling refreshed.

Be alert (if you can manage alertness) for these other signs:
• Feeling tired throughout the day.
• A need for caffeine-containing stimulants to get you started and keep you going.
• Falling asleep when you should be awake, such as during a movie or driving.
• Being barely able to drag yourself to bed at night because you’re so tired.

If any of these sound familiar, try the better sleep recommendations in my next health tip.

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