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.

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Is that daytime sleepiness obstructive sleep apnea?

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Sleep apnea solutions

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is common in men. It happens when the upper airway intermittently pinches closed overnight, disturbing sleep and starving the brain of oxygen. OSA is linked to poorer heart health and increased risk of accidents because of daytime fatigue. The most effective treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or variations on that therapy. These require wearing a face mask tethered to a bedside air pump. For people who cannot tolerate CPAP, several options are available, although they are not as effective. These include supplemental oxygen, surgery, or wearing a special oral appliance at night. Surgery is not generally effective for mild to moderate OSA. More »