Gets the ZZZs you need

Published On: Jan 04 2013 01:13:05 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 14 2013 10:44:35 AM CST

By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters

Everyone has an occasional night of poor sleep. But if it often takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night or you wake up frequently during the night and have a hard time going back to sleep, you could have a sleep problem that needs attention.

“Adequate sleep is as essential to good health as exercise and proper nutrition, and if you’re short of sleep, you can suffer physical, mental and emotional problems because of it,” says Amy Wolfson, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

Learning what sleep does for you and how to get more and better-quality sleep can help improve your present and future well-being.

Sleep and health

“Sleep deprivation, or an accumulated sleep debt caused by sleeping fewer hours than you need night after night, puts people at a variety of risks that include impaired immune function, car accidents, reduced memory, even unhappiness, and mistakes at work,” says Dr. Wolfson.

In addition, ongoing research has tied lack of sleep to an increased risk for depression, anxiety, metabolic disorders, and obesity. Recent studies also have found people with sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, are at risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and accidents.

Even occasional sleep problems can increase stress and the risk for car accidents. The National High­way Traffic Safety Administration estimates that annually more than 100,000 auto crashes in the United States are fatigue-related.

Sleep stealers

It may seem like you have no control over the quality of the sleep you get, but, in fact, you may be doing things that work against getting the rest you need.

In addition, health issues, such as pain, asthma, restless legs syndrome, and back problems, also can contribute to lack of sleep. So can some medications, such as decongestants, steroids and some medicines for high blood pressure, asthma or depression.

Secrets of good sleep

You can take steps to shift your body and mind into more beneficial sleep habits:

“If there are problems or issues keeping you awake, try writing them in a notebook and putting it away,” suggests Dr. Wolfson. “That way, you’ve registered your concerns but become free to put them aside until morning.”

When to seek help

If your sleep problems persist for longer than a week and are bothersome, or if sleepiness interferes with the way you feel or function during the day, don’t self-medicate with sleeping pills; make an appointment with your doctor.

“The key to better sleep is recognizing you’re not getting enough deep, restorative sleep, and then doing something about it,” says Dr. Wolfson. “Failure to do so puts you and others at risk.”

Source: http://resources.purematters.com/healthy-mind/sleep-fatigue/get-the-zzzs-you-need