By Emilie Donals Lazenby

If you wake up often in the night, feel less than refreshed in the morning, have difficulty falling asleep initially or falling back asleep throughout the night, you may be willing to try just about anything that promises a good night of sleep. You’re not alone. Think a little lost sleep is no big deal?  Let me offer you a key piece of research that will open your eyes, as it were, to the dangers of too little sleep:     Feeling fatigued can impact performance levels as much as alcohol intoxication. To forge a new path towards healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle, begin by assessing your own individual needs and habits. See how you respond to different amounts of sleep. Pay careful attention to your mood, energy and health after a poor night’s sleep versus a good one. Ask yourself, “How often do I get a good night’s sleep?” If the answer is “not often,” then you may need to change your sleep habits or consult a physician or sleep specialist. To pave the way for better sleep, experts at the National Sleep Foundation recommend that you and your family members follow these sleep tips: During the day: – Consume less or no caffeine, particularly late in the day. – Avoid alcohol and nicotine, especially close to bedtime. – Exercise, but not within three hours before bedtime. – Avoid naps, particularly in the late afternoon or evening. – If you know you are heading into a period of sleep deprivation, bank your sleep a few days ahead of time by tacking on at least an hour more of sleep each day. (Rupp et al, 2009). At night: – Establish a consistent bedtime routine and a regular sleep-wake schedule – begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep (take a bath, read a book, listen to soothing music or relaxation CD.) – Do not eat or drink too much within 2 hours of bedtime. – Create a sleep-promoting environment that is dark, cool, and comfortable. – Keep sleep stealers outside the bedroom —use your bedroom for sleep and sex ONLY (no last minute work projects on the computer, watching TV, or eating in bed). – Avoid distractions – Turn the alarm clock away from your line of sight and consider a bedside fan or white-noise machine to block out disturbing sounds. – Write out your to-do list for the day or week in advance and keep it on your nightstand for reassurance. Happy sleeping!   References Rupp TLWesensten NJBliese PDBalkin TJ (2009). Banking sleep: realization of benefits during subsequent sleep restriction and recovery. Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Sleep. 32, 311-21. Thomas, Maria, et al. (2000). Neural basis of alertness and cognitive performance impairments during sleepiness. I. Effects of 24 h of sleep deprivation on waking human regional brain activity, Journal of Sleep Research, vol. 9, 335±352.]]>