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Rev Up Your Energy

If you just can't seem to get yourself going during the day, chances are you're being robbed by one or more of these four energy thieves.
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Energy Thief No. 2: Sleep Deprivation

Lack of shut-eye can cause more than just plain lethargy. Even one night of sleep deprivation can make a person function as if they have had a few alcoholic beverages, says Russell Rosenberg, PhD, Director of Northside Hospital Sleep Medicine Institute in Atlanta.

"You may feel like you can get through the day [with little sleep] and you may not be falling asleep at your desk, but you're not functioning at an optimal level," says Rosenberg, noting people who lack sleep don't perform as well in mental tests compared to those who have gotten enough slumber.

Research backs him up. According to a 1998 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, the loss of one night's sleep can cause short-term sleepiness. The habitual loss of sleep, even by 1 or 2 hours a night, can lead to chronic sleepiness. Studies show sleepiness leads to car crashes by impairing reaction time, decreasing attention and focus, and decreasing the ability to perform mental tasks.

Sleep deprivation can also cause death and injury. The NHTSA reports there are about 56,000 crashes annually from drowsy driving and fatigue.

"The main purpose of sleep is to give you a restorative healing, a sense of alertness, and to improve both mood and your mental functioning," says Rosenberg. Without these gifts from sleep, energy would be lacking.

To catch more winks and receive its energy-boosting benefits, the National Sleep Foundation gives the following suggestions:

  • Examine your life. Look at your diet, exercise patterns, sleeping environment, personal habits, lifestyle, and current concerns, and determine if any of these elements may be getting in the way of getting a good night's sleep. If not enough time for sleep is a problem, try re-evaluating your priorities.

  • Consider the effects of caffeine and alcohol on your system. Some people have trouble sleeping at night even if they have a small amount of caffeine in the morning. Others have problems snoozing if they have caffeine close to bedtime. Alcoholic drinks, on the other hand, may help some folks doze off initially, but their slumber may not be restful.

  • Watch what you eat. Certain foods may cause heartburn that can keep you up in the middle of the night. Drinking a lot of fluids close to bedtime can wake you up as well with trips to the bathroom. Also, be careful of eating too much or not enough. Both can disrupt sleep.

  • Don't smoke. Studies show nicotine, a stimulant, is associated with sleeping and waking difficulties.

  • Create an ideal sleep environment. Use your bed only for sleep. Make sure your mattress provides enough support. If noise is a problem, consider wearing ear plugs, playing relaxing music, or placing rugs, heavy curtains, or double-pane windows in your bedroom. Make sure the room is comfortable, dark, and cool.

  • Exercise at the right time. Studies show physical activity in the late afternoon can improve the quality of sleep, but working out 2 to 3 hours before bedtime may delay slumber.

  • Set a regular bedtime and wake-time schedule. Sleeping late or sleeping in may seem ideal on weekends, but it may give you trouble getting to bed on Sunday evening, or waking up on Monday morning.

  • Find time to relax before going to sleep. Bedtime rituals can help you unwind and encourage a more restful sleep. Different activities work for different people. Try gentle music, soaking in a warm bath, meditation, or a prayer.
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