Are you getting enough zzzzzz's?

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Are you getting enough zzzzzz's?

Postby patoco » Sat Jun 17, 2006 11:39 pm

A good night's sleep is an essential part of good health.

Anyone who's pulled an all-nighter studying for exams or been up with a sick toddler knows that losing the occasional night of sleep can take its toll. You may feel irritable and grumpy the next day, find it difficult to focus on what you're doing or even remember what the heck you were going to do!

An important part of a healthy lifestyle

Sound familiar? If you're like most people, you can just yawn "yes." But in fact, getting a good night's sleep is a critical component of good health. Your body needs sleep to maintain and repair itself the same way it needs exercise and healthy food.

How much sleep is enough? It's very individual, say experts. While eight hours may have been the norm at one time, it is now widely recognized that some people may require more sleep, such as nine or ten hours, while others need only four or five hours of sleep each day to be at their best. Teenagers need about nine hours of sleep, but are lucky if they get seven.

Whatever your optimum number of hours of sleep, it's a fine balance. Sleeping too much or too little can be signs of depression, for instance. And a study in women shows that both too much or too little sleep can increase risk of heart disease.

Sleep disruption takes a toll

The impact of just one night of poor sleep can be felt the very next day. According to the Canadian Sleep Society, sleep disruption will take a toll on response time, motor ability, visual acuity, memory and attention. Depending on your agenda, the impact can range from inconvenient, even comical (can't remember your postal code) to life-threatening (can't stay awake while driving).

Sleepless nights can have many causes

Many medical conditions can disrupt sleep, including acid reflux, cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, diabetes or painful conditions such as cancer and arthritis.

Stress can also rob you of sleep, leaving you tossing and turning because of life changes such as divorce or losing a job. Over time, chronic lack of sleep can lead to anxiety and depression, which in turn can lead to loss of sleep, setting up a vicious cycle that can take a toll on overall health, depressing immune function and the body's ability to ward off disease.

Gender and life stage can play a role in sleep problems. Women tend to suffer from sleep deprivation more than men. Sleep also tends to suffer as as we get older.

There are different kinds of sleep disorders

In addition, there are many different kinds of sleep disorders that can prevent a good night's sleep. One of the most common is insomnia in which it can be difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Sleep apnea in which breathing stops many times during the night, often due to an upper airway obstruction, also robs many people (and their partners!) of a good night's sleep. The tip-off? Snoring.
Do you have symptoms of sleep apnea? Take this sleepiness test to find out whether you are likely to doze off when you're not supposed to.

Ten tips for a good night's sleep

Despite the fact that there are many situations that can stand between you and your requisite number of zzzs for good health, there are a lot of things you can do to increase the likelihood of a restful, restorative night's sleep:

Establish a sleep/wake pattern by getting up at the same time every morning - regardless of when you went to bed.

Get 30 minutes of some form of exercise such as brisk walking, every day. (Be aware, however, that too much activity late in the evening can stimulate the body and make it difficult to fall asleep.)

Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool - ideally 18 degrees centigrade.

Don't watch TV in bed, which can leave your mind racing.

Reading before bed is relaxing and can induce drowsiness.

Stay away from caffeine-containing beverages such as coffee, tea and some colas before bed. You may fall asleep but find yourself wide awake at 2 a.m.!

Avoid smoking, as chronic tobacco use disturbs sleep.

Avoid eating a heavy meal before bedtime as digestive processes will make it difficult to get a restful sleep.

A small snack of some carbohydrate can help induce sleep. A not-too-sugary cookie, for instance, and a glass of warm milk, known to contain the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan, is a good pre-sleep choice.

Take a relaxing warm bath in the evening before going to bed ... HNResource
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