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Sleep Wrecker 6: Being Exhausted -- as Opposed to Sleepy

Here's a common scenario. You come home from a long day at work, completely exhausted.  You stumble into the bedroom, fully expecting that as soon as your head hits the pillow, you'll be out.

But somehow, that's not what happens.  45 minutes later, you're still staring at the ceiling. What's gone wrong?

"Contrary to what people think, being exhausted doesn't necessarily make people sleep better," says Roth. "There's actually a big difference between being exhausted and being sleepy." Roth points out that if you ran 50 miles and then dropped down in bed, you would unquestionably be exhausted. However, your body might be far too revved up to sleep.

Regardless of how worn out you feel, always take some time to unwind. "Don't rush to bed after a stressful day," says Roth. Instead, spend some time sitting quietly first. It could save you lots of tossing and turning later.

Or Is It a Sleep Disorder?

Of course, you could also have an undiagnosed sleep disorder, one of the common but hardly surprising wreckers. About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep disorders, conditions that can seriously interfere with the quality of your rest.

For instance, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) causes your legs to jerk rhythmically while you're asleep, disturbing restful sleep. Sleep apnea causes snoring and brief interruptions in your breathing, which can also wake you from deep sleep.

Since these conditions only manifest themselves when you're asleep, you might not know you have the symptoms. Many people have sleep disorders for years before they're diagnosed.

Or your partner may have the sleep disorder -- disturbing your sleep as well.

"If your spouse is snoring and kicking in the night, neither of you are going to sleep well," says Mindell.

There are plenty of other causes of disturbed sleep -- a bedroom that is too hot or too cold, shades that don't block enough light, noises that can be muffled by a sound machine, hot flashes during menopause. Figuring out what might help can take some trial and error.

The important thing is to take action. If you're having trouble sorting out what could be causing your disrupted sleep, ask your doctor or schedule an appointment at a sleep clinic.

You should also take time to think more seriously about sleep and how much you're getting. Do you need four or five cups of coffee to get through a typical day? Do you always have to sleep in on the weekends? Do you tend to fall asleep immediately as soon as you get into bed? Those are typical signs of sleep deprivation, says Roth.

"People learn about nutrition and exercise in grade school, but nobody teaches us anything about the importance of sleep," says Roth. "As a society, we need to accept that better sleep has to be a priority."

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