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[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Busy schedules, stress, family, and medical issues can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Four common problems that arise from lack of needed sleep are depression, memory loss, weakened immune system, and a lower tolerance for pain. Now, recent research indicates that the health costs of sleep deprivation is greater than previously thought.
 
A recent study restricted a group of young men to four hours of sleep for six consecutive nights. After the sixth night, researchers found levels of glucose spiked for the study participants while production of insulin, the hormone that removes sugar from the blood was reduced. The effect was so strong that the participants’ blood sugar levels rose to between normal and diabetic! Fortunately, blood sugar levels returned to normal after the individuals’ customary sleep patterns were restored, but long-term results remain unknown.
 
How much sleep is enough sleep? Requirements vary between individuals, however general guidelines are:
 
• Infants need about 16 hours a day
• Teenagers need about 9 hours on average per day
• Adults need 7 to 8 hours per day, keep in mind that individual requirements for adults vary widely.
 
Easier said than done? Many of us lie in bed at night, our minds racing with chores, careers and family issues. There are steps you can take that will help ease you into sleep.
 
• Go to bed the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
• Sleep in a dark, quiet, comfortable environment.
• Exercise daily (but not right before bedtime).
• Turn off the electronics — yes, the computer and cell phone!
• Relax before bedtime. A warm bath or reading both help muscles relax.
• Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine late in the day.
 
Feel better … be better, get your sleep!
 
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