Sleep

One in five Americans sleeps less than six hours a night—a trend that can have serious personal health consequences. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for a number of chronic health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. If you have trouble sleeping, the following strategies can help you get more sleep.

Check for underlying causes. Some conditions or medications may be interfering with your sleep patterns. Treating a condition or adjusting a medication may be all it takes to restore better sleep.

Practice good sleep hygiene. Use your bed for sleep and sex only, block as much noise and light as possible, go to bed and wake at the same times each day, and get out of bed if you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes.

Nap if needed. If you like to nap, get your daytime shut-eye in midday. Naps late in the day can interfere with sleep later. If your problem is difficulty getting to sleep at night, then not napping can make you sleepier at bedtime and more likely to stay asleep.

Exercise earlier, not later. Exercise stimulates the body and brain, so make sure you finish exercising at least three hours before turning in.

Watch your diet. stay away from foods that cause heartburn. Ban caffeine-rich food and drinks (chocolate, tea, coffee, soda) at least six hours before bedtime. Don't drink alcohol for at least two hours before bed.

See a sleep specialist. If your own efforts aren't working, you'll want the help of a sleep professional to both diagnose your problem and propose behavioral and possibly drug treatments.

Sleep Articles

Better sleep means better health …

Prescription drugs may interfere with sleep. Some prescription sleep aids, when taken for long periods of time, become less effective. They are intended only for a short period of time. A number of other prescription medications for chronic medical conditions may also interfere with sleep because they contain stimulants. In many cases, the fix is a matter of adjusting the type of medicine and the dosage. If prescription sleep medicines are no longer effective, alternative treatments, such as behavior therapies, can help. More »

Ask the doctor: How can I deal with jet lag?

Jet lag is common when flying long distance across several time zones. For every time zone you cross, it takes about a day for your body to adjust. There is no proven solution for jet lag, but you may be able to minimize its effects. (Locked) More »

New options for treating sleep apnea

New options for people with obstructive sleep apnea include sleep testing at home and new options for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. For people who are overweight, losing weight can also improve breathing during sleep. (Locked) More »

Blue light has a dark side

Light at night is bad for your health, and exposure to blue light emitted by electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs may be especially so. At night, light throws the body's biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. But not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths seem to be the most disruptive at night. And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown. More »

Severe sleep apnea is linked to cardiovascular death in women

Obstructive sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing during sleep, with symptoms that include snoring and daytime sleepiness. Women with this sleep disorder may be at increased risk of dying from a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack, and treatment with a therapy called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, may reduce that risk. These are the findings of the first study to examine the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular death exclusively in women. Obstructive sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing during sleep, with symptoms that include snoring and daytime sleepiness. Studies have shown that severe apnea raises the risk of fatal cardiovascular events in men, and that CPAP is protective, but until now, data on women have been lacking. (Locked) More »

Learning while you sleep: Dream or reality?

A good night's sleep restores mind and body, preparing both for the challenges that lie ahead. Without restful sleep, mood, concentration, and mental performance suffer. Sleep deprivation is a major cause of  accidents, and it has been linked to important medical problems ranging from hypertension, obesity, and diabetes to heart disease, erectile dysfunction, and possibly even prostate cancer. Health-conscious men don't take sleep for granted, and scientists don't either. In fact, research suggests that even a brief nap may help boost learning, memory, and creative problem solving — all while your head is on the pillow. More »