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Sleep Problems on the Rise Due to Economy:
How to Get Your Sleep Back


The slumping economy has now made its way into many Americans’ bedrooms, where it’s interfering with sleep at alarming rates. Nearly one-third of Americans say they can’t get a good night’s sleep because they’re worrying about the economy, money or their job, according to a new poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

One-third of Americans are losing sleep over economic and financial worries.

In fact, worries about money are more prominent than worries about global warming, the threat of a terrorist attack or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In all, 27 percent of those polled said their sleep had been disturbed in the past month due to money problems, such as:

  • Personal finances (16 percent)
  • The economy (15 percent)
  • Losing their job (10 percent)

"What is very telling is that these Americans whose sleep is impacted by financial worries report that their sleep disturbance makes them much less likely to work efficiently, exercise, eat healthily, and have sex compared to their better-sleeping fellow Americans," report co-author Michael V. Vitiello, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at University of Washington told Yahoo News.

People who had trouble sleeping were also more than twice as likely to miss out on family events, leisure activities and work functions because they were tired, the poll found.

The Steep Risks of Too Little Sleep

“Getting enough sleep everyday is as important to your health as eating healthy and being physically active,” says Woodie Kessel, MD, MPH, Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS (ret.) who was a member of the 2009 Sleep in America poll taskforce.

Further, according to the Sleep Council, not sleeping enough could:

  • Make you fat. People who sleep four hours a night or less are 73 percent more likely to be overweight than those who sleep enough. Even if you sleep less than six hours a night, you're 25 percent more likely to be overweight than those who sleep longer.
  • Increase your appetite (also causing you to gain weight). Research by University of Bristol researchers found that people who slept for five hours had 15 percent more of a hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite, than those who slept for eight hours. Meanwhile, the short sleepers also had 15 percent less leptin, which is a hormone that suppresses appetite.

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  • Mimic the aging process. In fact, University of Chicago researchers found that sleeping for four hours a night for less than seven nights interferes with your ability to process and store carbs, and regulate hormone levels -- all of which may lead to aging.
  • Impact your brain. According to Canadian sleep expert Stanley Coren, you lose one IQ point for every hour of lost sleep you didn't get the night before.

Further, the 2009 NSF poll found 54 percent of adults, which amounts to a potential 110 million licensed drivers, have driven when drowsy at least once in the past year, and 28 percent said they have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving. The obvious repercussions of this could be increased motor vehicle accidents and a major public safety problem.

How to Stop Worrying and Get a Good Night’s Sleep

"It is important for Americans to recognize that good sleep is not negotiable, rather it is a pillar of good health and function," Vitiello told Yahoo News. "As times get tougher, it actually becomes more important than ever to do what one can to maintain good sleep quality, as poor sleep has such an immediate impact on daily function and longer-term impact on physical health."

Unfortunately, the number of people reporting sleep problems has increased 13 percent since 2001. But the good news is if you are one of these sleep-disturbed people, there are many simple techniques that can help you get some much-needed shuteye.

First, shift your gears into relaxation mode. Falling asleep is like shifting gears. It involves a whole different style of functioning than the focused state of attention we have during the day. It requires relaxation and a kind of "letting go." An active mind at bedtime is not conducive to falling asleep. We need to be able to turn off our minds and "de-focus."

To do this, you can try:

  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine. Give yourself time to get ready for bed slowly. Savor the moments of winding down as you wash your face, brush your teeth, and change into your bed clothes. You can use aroma oils, soft music or if spirituality is important to you, a prayer.
  • Keeping your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark. (Usually a cool room promotes sleep, but you will have difficulty sleeping if you feel cold, so experiment. If your feet are cold in winter, warm them up before bed!)
  • Drinking a cup of relaxing tea, like chamomile.
  • Massaging your feet, especially with warm oil, right before bed (or having your partner do it) -- it's very relaxing.
  • Stretching a bit before you lie down. You can literally stretch out some of the "kinks" and tension of the day. Stretching makes some people more energetic and some more sleepy, so experiment and find out what works for you. 6.

NSF also recommends you try these tips if you have difficulty sleeping for any reason:

  1. Have a standard relaxing bedtime routine and keep regular sleep times.
  2. Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime (finish your workout at least three hours before you plan to go to sleep).
  3. Avoid foods and drinks high in caffeine (coffee, colas and tea) for at least eight hours prior to bedtime, and avoid alcohol for a few hours before bedtime. Both caffeine and alcohol disturb sleep.
  4. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex (including removing work materials, your computer and your TV from your bedroom). This will strengthen the association between your bed and sleep.

And remember, relaxation is one of the most important antidotes to stress and insomnia, especially if you’re having trouble sleeping due to the economy. So please take a few moments and read through these 15 quick tips to help you shift gears into relaxation mode, and ultimately sleep longer and more soundly.

Recommended Reading

Stress Keeping You Awake? Stressed Because You Can't Sleep?

17 Tips for Healthy and Peaceful Sleep … Including 6 You May Not Know Of


National Sleep Foundation March 2, 2009

Yahoo News March 2, 2009

The Sleep Council

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