Stop Counting Sheep, Get Some Sleep!

<b>Stop Counting Sheep, Get Some Sleep!</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Americans lead busy lives — and the overscheduled often cut back on sleep. But sleeping five or six hours a night can carry severe health consequences. Studies suggest the adults need at least seven or eight hours of shut-eye — getting less can interfere with job performance, not to mention contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

But what if you’re trying to sleep, but can’t fall asleep, or wake up still feeling tired? Stimulants like caffeine or nicotine, large meals or exercise right before bed, and disruptive sleep environments can all contribute to poor sleep. For as many as 12 million Americans, as estimated by the National Institutes of Health, the problem may be a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea.

In obstructive sleep apnea, the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses into the airway during sleep, cutting off oxygen to the blood. When patients with sleep apnea stop breathing, the brain rouses them, sometimes hundreds of times a night. The result? Fragmented, poor-quality sleep.

Sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, and most cases go undiagnosed. If you often feel tired, get your Snore Score at the American Sleep Apnea Association’s Web site ( If you answer “yes” to any of its six questions, you should ask your doctor about sleep apnea. Treatments are available and can greatly improve your quality of life.

If you’ve ruled out an underlying sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, but still find yourself counting sheep, try the following tips:

– Avoid stimulants. The caffeine in that cup of coffee will remain in your body for six to eight hours, so stop drinking coffee after lunch. If you really need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, try taking a brisk walk outside. Thirty to sixty minutes of sunlight exposure per day can help you sleep more soundly.

– Don’t take naps after three p.m. Late-afternoon naps will make it more difficult to sleep later.

– Take a hot bath before bed. The water will lower your body temperature, mimicking what happens during sleep. Keeping your bedroom at a cool temperature may also help.

– Lessen distractions before bed. Give yourself time to wind down with a book or relaxing music. Keep televisions and computers out of the bedroom — they provide too much stimulation. If you find that you can’t fall asleep, don’t lie awake in bed. Find a quiet activity to do for 20 minutes, then try again.

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