A bad night’s sleep can take many forms. You may wake up a lot during the night without being able to go back to sleep. You may take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. You may wake up too early in the morning. You may feel bleary and sluggish when you get up and drowsy during the day.
When these problems linger night after night, they can have a huge impact on your health. They can cause:
Impaired concentration and difficulty completing tasks
An increased accident risk, especially while driving
A decline in memory, learning, and reasoning ability
A heightened risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack for those with sleep apnea
How much sleep do you need each night—and how can you tell if you’re getting it? Most adults need seven to eight hours, but the real test is whether you feel sleepy during the day.
In many cases, simple lifestyle changes can improve your sleep:
Establish a regular schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day and night.
Follow a bedtime routine. Do the same relaxing things every night before you go to bed.
Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, comfortable, and relaxing.
Skip caffeine after 2:00 pm and alcohol within three hours of going to bed.
You can find additional advice at the website of the National Sleep Foundation, sleepfoundation.org.
If you try these suggestions and your sleep problems continue for more than a week, or if sleepiness hinders your ability to perform during the day, seek a doctor’s help.
You may be tempted to try an over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medication, but consult a pharmacist or physician first.
OTC sleep aids make most people feel drowsy and sedated for several hours after taking them. The effect usually weakens after you use them for two or three nights in a row. You may feel groggy the next morning. Other possible side effects: headache, dry mouth or eyes, constipation, and difficulty urinating.
Getting enough sleep is crucial to your health and well-being. If you aren’t getting all you need, take action.
A recent Canadian study estimated that the costs of absenteeism, lost productivity, and accidents total more than $4,000 a year for each employee with insomnia. The lost productivity amounts to 28 days per person, the American Journal of Managed Care reports.
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