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Healthy Living: Sleep Matters


Sleep MattersSeveral years ago, I stopped sleeping. After a while, I stopped functioning. No, really. I walked through each day like a zombie, and even now, I can’t recall how I accomplished basic tasks. Once, I even fell asleep in the car in a parking lot, immediately after pulling in.

Good sleep patterns are critical to your overall health.

Adequate sleep is necessary to fight off infection, colds and illnesses, especially this time of year. Good sleep supports your metabolism. It helps you work safely and effectively, and it enables you to perform well in school.

If left untreated, sleep disorders and chronic short sleep are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. However, getting good sleep isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re exhausted but just can’t sleep well.

There are several things you can do to help the process along, though.

Start dimming the lights about an hour before you want to go to bed. Don’t exercise, eat or drink within that hour, either (or three to four hours before bedtime, in the case of exercise).

Prepare yourself for sleep by ceasing any activity. Read a book, watch TV, take a bath or listen to music. Avoid making school lunches, preparing work for the next day, cleaning or any other activity that invites stress.

Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Put electronics away, if you have to, or turn off the volume so they won’t be distracting. Keep work out of your bedroom. Keep laundry off your bed.

Drink warm tea or milk as you begin to settle down. A bath, about an hour before bed, helps induce sleepiness as you cool off. Add lavender to the bathwater, use lavender lotion or diffuse lavender essential oils in your bedroom as lavender is known to have a calming effect.

If sleep problems persist, consult your doctor. He can do a blood workup and help you identify any physical causes of sleeplessness. He might also prescribe a natural supplement or a short-term medication to help break the cycle of sleeplessness.

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