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sleep-webRISMEDIA, May 27, 2009-(MCT)-The economy and job-related stress keep millions of Americans from getting the proper amount of sleep each night. From not being able to fall asleep to waking up in the middle of the night, many individuals are constantly looking for ways to get more shut eye.

Here are the top 5 solutions for sleepless nights:

1. You can’t fall asleep. Don’t stay in bed. It turns your sanctuary into a torture chamber and actually decreases your sleep drive. Instead, practice good “sleep hygiene” by reducing your caffeine intake, exercising (but not too close to bedtime) and avoiding stimulating activities, such as TV and computer use. Resist the urge to knock yourself out with wine, because alcohol prevents deep sleep. If anxiety is keeping you up, keep the lights dim, get out of bed and listen to music, talk radio or an audio book with your eyes closed. Go back to bed when you feel drowsy.

2. You wake up in the middle of the night. Don’t turn on the light. This “tells the brain it’s morning and it stops producing melatonin,” said sleep expert Michael Breus. Don’t go to the bathroom simply because you’re awake. Instead, he said, distract your mind by counting backward from 300 by 3s-that requires more calculation than counting sheep. If you wake up within an hour of the time you’re supposed to get up, then just get up. If you stay in bed longer than 30 or 40 minutes, your body could push you back into a deep sleep.

3. You’re taking medications. Don’t be shy about talking to your doctor about your medications. About 1,000 drugs (including antidepressants, cough and cold remedies, and statins) can make you feel wired, said Suzy Cohen, author of “Drug Muggers.” Try taking antidepressants in the morning (unless they have a sedative effect). If insomnia persists, ask your doctor for a lower dosage.

4. You have Sunday night insomnia. Anxiety plays a huge role for many, but another problem is staying up too late on Friday and Saturday. “Then the body wants to stay up later on Sunday too,” said Breus. “If you stay within 45 minutes to an hour of your normal bedtime it should diminish,” he said.

5. You’re truly a night owl. Don’t fight it. But if you can’t work the night shift, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, said sleep expert Jodi Mindell, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Don’t let yourself drift on weekends or else it will be very hard to get back on schedule. Also, get out in the bright light first thing in the morning, as this will help train your internal clock to an earlier schedule.”

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.