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How to cope with the epidemic of sleeplessness
 By Kate Murphy        

       Ever space out during a meeting, jerk awake while at your computer, or snooze through part of a TV show ? Millions of Americans do, and that's cause for concern. A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation, a non profit research group in Washington, found  that two-thirds of the US. population gets less than the recommended hours of sleep at night. That means sleeplessnes is of "epidemic proportions in this country , " says Dr. William Dement, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Stanford University School of Medicine.

         Whether it's the result, of insomnia or today's burn-the-midnight-oil lifestyle, not getting enough sleep leads to poor     judgment, lack of creativity, impaired memory, even depression. It also can make you more vulnerable toviral and bacterial infections. Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that in adequate sleep over just six nights impairs metabolic and honnonal functions. Over time, this can provoke the onset or increase the severity of hypertension and Type II diabetes, the more common fonn of that disease.



        For some people, however, the  problem is not so much setting aside time to sleep as falling asleep. Wakefulness is often the result of  bad sleep habits. Sleeping in for      hours on weekends, for example, confuses the body's internal clock, and leads to wide-eyed nights and groggy mornings. So will long naps, although short ones (20 minutes or so) to pay back sleep lost the night before or in anticipation of a late night are, O. K.

        To train your body to get to sleep more easily, try these tips:

        1 . Stick to a regular bedtime schedule.

        2. Try to avoid intense mental activities such as studying your stock portfolio before bedtime. Instead, consider deep breathing, yoga, or light stretching to alleviate the day's stress. Experts also advise keeping a notepad on your nightstand to jot  down worries      to be dealt with the next day. Following the same routine night after night before bedtime seems to help prepare both the mind and the body for sleep.


        3. Give yourself an physical environment. Drown out disturbing noise and create a soothing background. Keep it cool -- people usually sleep best in rooms that are between 65 and 69 F. And make sure your bed is comfortable and has plenty of room. Sleep experts urge couples to consider a king so they won't disturb each other at night.

        4. Consider getting rid of or hiding your bedside clock. People who can't sleep tend to keep checking the time, which only heightens their anxiety about being awake.   


         5. Watch  what you eat. Foods  containing the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan (found in dairy products, beans, peanuts, poultry, and green leafy vegetables) are good choices for dinner or a nighttime. snack. You may want to avoid caffeine even during the day because its stimulative effects linger long after consumption.

        6. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid tobacco. Alcohol can produce troubled sleep. Smoking stimulates    the system as much as anice-cold shower .

        7. Do exercise. Studies confirm that moderate aerobic activity at least three days a week promotes sound sleep. But take care not to exercise within four hours before hitting- the hay; otherwise, it tends to have the reverse effect.  One nighttime physical activity that may actually help sleep is sex, which can have a sedating effect. On the other hand, it may worsen the problem for some insomniacs.

        8. If sleep still won't come within 20 minutes of retiring , get out of  bed. Read or watch TV somewhere else until your eyelids droop and then try again.

If sleep trouble or daytime drowsiness persists, consult a doctor. Thyroid and kidney disorders are among possible health problems that can produce insomnia. Regardless of the cause, experts warn that you shouldn't play down chronic lack of sleep. Physically and mentally, you lose when you don't snooze. 
























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