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Physical Therapist Frank McCabe Demonstrates How to Maximize and Improve Your Sleep.

  Healthy sleep habits can make a big difference in your quality of life. Having healthy sleep habits is often referred to as having good sleep hygiene. In today’s “24/7” society, many people cut back on sleep to squeeze in more time for work, family obligations, and other activities. But skimping on sleep can be harmful. Sleep is not merely “down time” when the brain shuts off and the body rests.

  Sleep disorders such as insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or unrefreshing sleep), sleep apnea (brief periods of pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while you are sleeping), restless legs syndrome (an almost irresistible urge to move the legs that can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep), and narcolepsy (excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness despite adequate nighttime sleep) are also described with information on diagnosis and treatment. In addition, a sample sleep diary helps readers track their sleep-related habits.

  Sleep needs vary from person to person, and they change throughout the lifecycle. Newborns sleep between 16 and 18 hours a day, and children in preschool sleep between 10 and 12 hours a day. School-aged children and teens need at least 9 hours of sleep a day. Research suggests that adults — including seniors — need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day to be well rested and to perform at their best.

  Studies have linked sleep to our ability to learn, create memories, and solve problems. Sleep has also been tied to mood. Without enough sleep, a person has trouble focusing, and responding quickly — a potentially dangerous combination, such as when driving. In addition, mounting evidence links a chronic lack of sleep with an increased risk for developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and infections.

  The quality of sleep is also important. How well rested you are and how well you function the next day depend on your total sleep time and how much of the various stages of sleep you get each night. Yet, each year an estimated 70 million adult Americans have some type of sleep problem.

  Try to keep the following sleep practices on a consistent basis:

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