HEALTHY LIVING: A little shut eye goes a long way

Sleep is as necessary for good health as are nutrition and regular exercise. Yet, an estimated 100 million men and women of all ages and backgrounds in the United States do not get the restful sleep they need every night.

They experience fatigue, anxiety, depression, loss of memory and an inability to concentrate. They may fall asleep on the job or while driving. Individuals who do not get enough sleep also face increased risks for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

The most common sleep disorders are: sleep apnea, which is characterized by snoring or choking due to an obstructed airway; insomnia, which is a persistent inability to fall asleep or remain asleep; narcolepsy, which is the irresistible urge to sleep in the middle of the day; and restless legs syndrome, an uncomfortable condition characterized by tingling sensations and an overwhelming urge to move the legs during rest.

Sleep disorders can be treated and, in many cases, cured. If you have trouble sleeping, then discuss the matter with your physician.

Meanwhile, try these sleep-enhancing tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

• Get up about the same time every day;

• Go to bed only when you are sleepy;

• Establish relaxing pre-sleep rituals like taking a warm bath, eating a light bedtime snack or reading for a few minutes;

• Exercise regularly, but confine vigorous exercise to the early hours (six or more hours before bedtime) and limit mild exercise to at least four hours before bedtime;

• Maintain a regular schedule for eating meals, taking medications and completing daily chores (this will keep your inner clock running smoothly);

• Do not drink coffee, soft drinks and other liquids containing caffeine within six hours of bedtime;

• Do not drink alcohol when you are sleepy or taking sleeping pills;

• Avoid cigarettes and other nicotine products;

• If you must nap, then do so about the same time daily (mid-afternoon is the best time for most people).

• Avoid sleeping pills or use such medications conservatively.

I cannot overstate the importance of regular, restful sleep to good health. Sleep well and you will feel better.

Dr. David Brown is medical director of the Franciscan Health System Sleep Disorders Center at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. Call 253-944-7555 to schedule an appointment. St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw is also part of the Franciscan Health System.

Written by Dr. David Brown, Franciscan Health System

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