PUBLISHED: 4:12 PM on Wednesday, November 2, 2005
A good night's sleep leads to better health

Courtesy photo
Are you one of the millions of Americans suffering from sleeplessness? Don't be ashamed: A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60 percent of American adults experience sleep problems. That's a lot of people tossing and turning at night.

It's crucial that you get a good night's sleep because proper sleep correlates to good health - mentally, emotionally and physically. A poor night's sleep can lead to increased risk of heart disease, weight gain, lack of focus, the inability to perform daily activities, and negatively impact relationships with children or a spouse.

How much sleep is enough? Sleep needs vary. Most healthy adults need an average of eight hours of sleep a night, though some can function fine on as little as six hours. Children will need more, nearly 10 or 12.

Secrets to a good night's sleep

So what's the secret to sleeping soundly? Follow these slumber tips.

1. Don't nap during the day. It will only make you less tired at bedtime.

2. Exercise regularly, but make sure it's a few hours before bedtime. If you work out and then go to sleep, your body won't have time to wind down.

3. Watch what you eat and drink. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late in the afternoon and evening. Stimulants will keep you awake, and a full bladder may awaken you during the night. Eat dinner at least three hours before you go to bed, especially if it's a large meal.

4. Your bed should be for sleeping. Don't use it as a place to read, watch television or talk on the phone. That way, you will associate nothing else besides sleep with your bed.

5. Rooms that are too hot or too cold aren't conducive to sleep so maintain a comfortable and cool temperature in the bedrooms.

6. Don't be kept awake by street lamps or car headlights. Draw blinds or curtains to prevent any sources of light from entering the room.

7. It's hard enough to fall asleep when it's quiet, and even harder when it's noisy! Block out sounds with earplugs or soothing music.

8. Relax before bedtime. Follow a nighttime routine, whether that means reading a book, listening to soothing music, stretching, or taking a hot bath.

9. Take a natural sedative to help you sleep.