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How to Fight Your Sleep Demons and Win

By Sandy Schroeder

Too many of us just skate by with less sleep than we need. Then we think we can make up for it with a long, lazy weekend. But our bodies know the difference, and the lost sleep still needs to be solved to protect our health and just to enjoy life.

Nobody wants to walk around yawning, gulping espressos in the afternoon, and then waking up at 3 a.m., trying desperately to get back to Snoozeville. But that can easily happen if your sleep schedule needs adjusting.

The Secret to Good Sleep

Harvard professor Dr. Hadine Joffe recommends two simple changes: Limit caffeine and stick to a regular sleep schedule. I can almost see many readers out there, shaking their heads and protesting at the suggestion that coffee be limited.

Having started every waking day of my adult years with a cup of strong black coffee, followed by more throughout the day, I understand the issue all too well.

But I found when I limited my coffee to one cup in the morning, my whole sleep pattern gradually changed. Instead of gulping more coffee throughout the day, I substituted quick walks, and small fruit or nut snacks with water or juice.

How It Works

Dr. Jaffe suggests waking up the same time every day, including weekends.  Have just one cup of caffeinated coffee or a cup of decaf. If you are used to several cups a day, gradually cut the amount back.

Somewhere during the day, get outside for a 30 minute walk or some other exercise like a stretching routine. Sunshine and physical activity will both help to improve your sleep.

Eat a regular lunch and a light dinner, avoiding tea, coffee, soda, alcohol and chocolate.

Bedtime Rituals

About a half-hour before you go to bed, turn off all screens.  Do something relaxing like listening to music or taking a warm bath.

Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep with low lights, blackout curtains, soothing colors, and comfortable bedding. Go to bed at the same time each night.

If you wake up and have trouble falling asleep, get up and read for a bit until you feel tired again. Gradually, if you keep this schedule, your body will relax into it and sleep should become much more routine.

If this approach does not produce results, see your physician to discuss the problem.  Problems such as anemia, thyroid, hot flashes, heartburn, incontinence or depression could be interfering with your sleep.

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