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Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is fast becoming one of America's most serious problems. 30 to 50 percent of our population is currently affected by sleep deprivation and its getting worse. A large number of people regularly try to manage their lives without sufficient sleep.

Many Americans are trying to get more out of a day than our bodies can afford, i.e.; people are working longer hours, working odd shifts, spending more time with the family, socializing, recreation, studying, volunteering, etc.. Sleep is no longer considered a high priority. Many people have been existing on inadequate sleep so long they no longer know what it's like to be awake.

Trying to exist on less sleep than your body needs is not only uncomfortable it's dangerous. What are the symptoms of sleep deprivation? Nodding off during the day, feeling exhausted in the morning, sleepiness hours before bedtime, inability to concentrate, slurred speech, dizziness, and mood swings. It can also cause heart palpitations, as well as increase stress and lower resistance. In certain occupations, such as driving or operating machinery, sleepiness can be deadly. [Note: If you suffer from fatigue and sleepiness even though you are getting adequate sleep you should see a physician, you may be suffering from depression or another illness.]

The following tips may help you get a good night's sleep:

  • Exercise as early in the day as you can but no later than within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Fifteen minutes in a sauna or hot bath will help you relax.
  • Don't take naps lasting longer than 1 hour or within 6 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Avoid alcohol - it can cause drowsiness but the sleep is fragmented - not a deep sleep.
  • Eat a light snack 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. Carbohydrates make you sleepy.
  • No strenuous mental activities within an hour before bed. Light reading is okay.
  • Supplements of calcium and magnesium may help.
  • Take other vitamin supplements early in the day, (many give your energy)
  • Limit late-night fluids so you don't need middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks.
  • Go to bed only when you are sleepy. Use your bed only for romance and sleep.
  • Don't watch TV, play video games, eat or read in bed.
  • If you cannot fall asleep within 15 minutes get out of bed and go to another room or sit in a chair and read, listen to relaxing music, etc.
  • Make the room darker. Consider using eyeshades or heavy blinds. Dim down the light from the clock.
  • If noises bother you, invest in earplugs or a "white noise" machine.
  • Try relaxation techniques. There are some great ones on tape.
  • Some people use melatonin as a supplement. Try the other ideas first.
  • If your body responds to sunlight, consider a room-lightening clock that gradually lightens up the room (just like sunlight) as your time to awaken nears.

One of the most helpful suggestions is to develop a consistent schedule. When our circadian rhythm gets out of kilter, it requires time and patience to reestablish the pattern. Wake up at the same time every morning and go to bed at the same time every night. If it need readjusting you must increasingly get up earlier and earlier until the pattern is what you need. As you get up earlier you will gradually find that you get sleepier at night and start to feel more awake in the morning.

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