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Improve your sleep routine

If you're one of the more than 70 million Americans who's chronically sleep deprived, you're probably all too familiar with the effects: daytime drowsiness, headaches, irritability, weight gain and poor concentration. Chronic sleep loss may also up the risk of colds and infections, and contribute to heart disease, diabetes and even a shorter life span.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia as men_three out of four women get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Biology and normal hormonal fluctuations partly explain why women have trouble sleeping, says Suzan Jaffe, Ph. D., a behavioral sleep specialist in Miami. "Menstruation, pregnancy and menopause all adversely affect sleep. Plus, women are coping with serious stress. All this can add up to some significant sleep loss."

Are your bedtime habits exhausting you? Family Circle offers these tips to improve your sleep routine and catch some ZZZZ's.

_ Follow a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Even if you stay up later than usual one night, don't try to catch up on sleep the next morning. It will only throw off your internal body clock.

_ Keep your bedroom dark and cool. If sunlight wakes you up too early in the morning, use blackout shades. Keep the temperature of your room at 74 degrees or lower.

_ Turn your clock around at night. If you know what time it is, you'll worry more about how long it's taking you to fall asleep.

_ Don't force yourself to sleep. Most people naturally fall asleep within 20 minutes or so, but if it seems like it's taking longer than that, get out of bed.

_ Have your pets sleep on the floor. Sharing a bed with your pets can disrupt your sleep, according to a recent study, which found that 22 percent of people with sleeping problems share a bed with their cats and dogs.

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