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Insomnia Raises Risk of High Blood Pressure

Researchers Add to List of Health Risks for Poor Sleepers

Getting a Good Night's Sleep continued...

Kohler is medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill and a spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"There is more awareness about the importance of sleep to our overall health, but despite this, very few physicians adequately screen their patients for sleep problems," he says. "This should be routine."

The typical adult needs about eight hours of sleep a night, but Kohler says a few people can get by on four or five hours and others need nine or 10.

"If your body needs eight hours and you typically sleep for five or six, you will pay for it by being tired all the time and not functioning all that well," he says.

He says insomniacs can take steps to improve their sleep, including:

  • Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sex. Your sleeping space should not do double duty as a home office or media center. "A person with sleep problems shouldn't watch TV in bed, eat in bed, or even read in bed," Kohler says. "The bedroom should be for sleeping."
  • If you don't fall asleep in 20 minutes, get up and do something boring. The bed often becomes a war zone for people who have trouble sleeping, he says. Instead of lying there tossing and turning, get up and perform an activity that isn't too stimulating until you feel tired.
  • Have a small snack. Kohler recommends a glass of milk, cheese, or even turkey
  • Create a nice sleep environment. The lights should be off and you should be comfortable.
  • Exercise, but not just before going to bed. Studies show that exercising improves sleep, but doing it too close to bedtime can keep you awake.  

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