The average American sleeps 6.9 hours a night. When we get less sleep than we need, our reaction times get slower, our blood pressure rises, we eat more, and we’re more at risk of obesity and diabetes.
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Sometimes lack of sleep is caused by disorders that can also cause problems during the day. Examples include:
Night sweats, which are caused by menopause, cancer, and infections.
Hypersomnia, which is excessive day time sleepiness caused by narcolepsy, being overweight, use of certain medicines, or drug and alcohol use.
Kleine Leven syndrome, where sufferers sleep up to 20 hours a day for several weeks.
Insomnia, which affects 30 to 50% of the population.
Narcolepsy, where sufferers may fall asleep easily during the day.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, where limbs move rhythmically during sleep.
Six percent of Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a condition where the sufferer stops breathing for 10 to 30 seconds, up to 400 times a night. Two to four percent of the American population suffers from apnea without a diagnosis. Apnea sufferers are six times more likely to die in a traffic accident due to fatigue. People who sleep next to apnea sufferers lose an average of one hour of sleep per night, and people with untreated apnea are four times more likely to suffer a stroke. Half of those with sleep apnea snore heavily.
Foods that Cause Insomnia
Alcohol may relax you, but it prevents you from sleeping well. And it’ll make you have to use the bathroom a lot! Spicy foods can cause heartburn or indigestion that keeps you awake. Sugar can also cause you to wake up craving more. And chocolate can contain caffeine that keeps you perky in the wee hours.
What Sleep Can Do for You
While the number of hours of sleep a person needs varies based on the individual, a good night’s rest has many benefits. It can reduce stress, improve memory, help you lose weight, prevent depression, and heal faster. Sleep can also reduce inflammation that could lead to heart conditions, cancer, and diabetes. Adequate sleep makes you more alert and gives you faster reaction times.
How to Get More Sleep
Keep the bed pet-free, as Fido or Jingles may keep you from sleeping well. Wind down before bed without checking email or watching TV. Read a good book and take a bath or shower to mentally prepare for sleep. If you’ve got a lot on your mind, write about it in a journal to unwind. Don’t sleep with electronics in the bedroom. They can distract you and rob you of sleep. Have a warm herbal or caffeine-free tea before going to bed. And don’t work out just before bed: Exercise can help you sleep, but work out earlier in the day for a good night’s rest.
Before bed, opt for light snacks like yogurt or popcorn rather than heavy carbs.
You’re Never Too Old for a Nap
The Spanish know the benefit of naps. They even close down stores and restaurants for several hours to catch a siesta. And for good reason! Naps do some great things for the body. They give you more energy and alertness, improve work productivity by as much as 30 percent, reduce stress and the risk of heart disease by 34 percent, and lower the risk of accidents on the job.
Many famous people have benefited from regular napping. Brahms found inspiration for his musical compositions from naps he took at his piano. Napoleon caught a few zzz’s on his horse between battles. Einstein would sleep in a chair with a pencil in his hand. When the pencil dropped, he woke up. Even presidents need naps. Bill Clinton would nap to help deal with the pressures of the job.