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

Refueling your energy levels

Everyone has the occasional low-energy day, but constant fatigue can make people less mentally and physically active, and diminish overall quality of life. To fight fatigue and increase your energy level, eat healthier foods, exercise regularly and be sure to get enough quality sleep. However, if you have unusual fatigue, it can be an early warning of a serious illness and should be checked out by a doctor. (Locked) More »

Are drugstore sleep aids safe?

 Image: © Spauln/Getty Images It's 2 a.m. and you can't sleep. Is it okay to take a nonprescription remedy? "They're not meant for the long term, but it may be okay for an occasional night of problems with sleep," says sleep expert Dr. Lawrence Epstein, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. But which option should you reach for? Drugstore shelves are lined with a dizzying array of products promising a good night's sleep. They fall into two categories: nonprescription medications and dietary supplements. More »

How to sleep through the night

 Image: © Motortion/Getty Images Most men experience bouts of sleeplessness as they age. They have trouble going to sleep, wake up in the night, and then have trouble falling back to sleep. Most of this has to do with normal aging, but don't think you need less sleep because you are older. "Research has shown that your sleep needs stay constant throughout adulthood," says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, associate physician with the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "Instead, it's your sleep patterns that change, and that is what can interfere with sleep quality." More »

Is fibromyalgia real?

Q. My friend was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but it seems like she might be imagining her symptoms. Is fibromyalgia a real condition? A. The short answer to your question is yes. Fibromyalgia is a real condition that affects some four million Americans. It's a chronic pain syndrome that experts believe may be caused by a malfunctioning nervous system. Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging to examine the brains of people with fibromyalgia have found abnormalities in the part of the brain that processes pain signals from the body. It appears that this part of the brain is essentially boosting the intensity of normal pain signals, potentially causing the body to feel pain without a physical cause. People with fibromyalgia experience muscular pain and tenderness throughout their body along with other symptoms, including extreme fatigue, mood disturbances (such as anxiety and depression), headaches, and problems with sleep and memory. More »

How to overcome grief’s health-damaging effects

 Image: © kali9/Getty Images Most men don't face much personal loss early in their lives. Yet, once they reach a certain age, they will encounter the experience of losing someone important to them — a spouse, a friend, a relative — and the feelings of grief that often follow. "Grief is a natural response to loss, but it is something that men are not prepared for, and they often struggle to understand how it can affect their lives," says Dr. Eric Bui, associate director for research at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders and Complicated Grief Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. More »

Is your pillow hurting your health?

 Image: © vitranc/Getty Images You probably know someone who won't leave home without a special pillow, claiming that a particular bag of fluff or feathers is the key to a good night's sleep. And that person may be on to something. "Anything that will make you more comfortable will improve the likelihood of getting a good night's sleep," says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, a sleep expert at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. But the benefits of pillows don't go much further than comfort and positioning. Sometimes pillows even hurt your health. More »

Recharge your sexual energy

 Image: © nautiluz56/Thinkstock Your sexual drive can stay high late in life, but often your energy for sex can diminish. Low energy not only affects your sex life, but can carry over to other parts of your life, too. You can become apathetic, no longer find pleasure in favorite activities, and become more sedentary. However, many of these issues related to lost sexual energy can be addressed. "Never think lack of energy means an end to your sex life, and there is nothing you can do about it," says Dr. Sharon Bober, director of the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Sexual Health Program. "There are many strategies you can adopt to get back in the game." (Locked) More »