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How to get more Z's

Posted On Fri, May 24, 2013

Health experts say that in order to get the most out of each and every day - as well as maintain one's optimum well-being - people should get approximately seven to eight hours of sleep each night. But survey after survey reveals that the vast majority of Americans fail to achieve this ideal.

The following tips may help provide individuals who may be sleep deprived with the tools they need to get more shut-eye.

Go to bed, rise at same time
For example, health researchers say that the body thrives on consistency and regularity. In other words, the body has an internal clock that knows what time of day it is. While changes in schedule may be an unavoidable part of life, it's important to try and stick to a specific bedtime schedule. Whatever time it happens to be, it's recommended that it's maintained as frequently as possible, going to bed right around the same time every night and waking up at approximately the same time each morning. Even on the weekends - a time which many people use to "catch up" on sleep - this schedule should be adhered to.

Sleep in room that's favorable to it
Making the room conducive to sleeping is also important. Some people may turn on the television to help them fall asleep. However, researchers say that while this may seem like a smart way to fall asleep, it can actually disrupt the overall process by limiting one's ability to achieve REM sleep, which is one of the deepest forms. In addition to keeping the television off, it's recommended that the room be kept very dark, whether that's by blocking out lights from a computer, cell phone, alarm clock or the windows.

Increase exposure to light sources in daytime
While light may be the enemy for sleeping, it's one of the best things to be around during the day. Sleep experts say that it's wise to increase one's exposure to natural sunlight during the day, as this helps regulate the body's sleep-wake cycle.

With many people who spend their day working in the office, being able to access direct sunlight may prove to be difficult. Whenever possible, workers are encouraged to get away from their desk and take a five to 10 minute walk outside on a lunch break. Getting out around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is particularly ideal, as this is the period of the day in which the sun's intensity is at its peak.

There are also manufactured ways of getting more light by using light therapy. Light therapy boxes simulate the sunshine, which can be helpful during periods of the year in which daylight is limited, such as during the winter.

Other sleep tips
Temperature control is another way to make conditions more conducive to sleeping. As a general rule, it's better to keep a room a bit on the cool side, as the body's more likely to stay asleep under these conditions than if it's too hot.

It may also be advisable to have a small snack before bedtime. If the body goes to bed hungry, it can create pangs that ultimately cause someone to awake from their slumber. However, it's important not to overeat, which may cause discomfort.

Health experts say the benefits of getting the proper amount of sleep are numerous, many of which one may not associate with shuteye. For example, studies have shown that those who get the proper amount of rest tend to have a healthier weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight, leading to health conditions that may ultimately affect insurance rates.

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