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More Americans Affected by Sleeplessness

If visions of dancing sugarplums are keeping you awake nights, you’re not alone.// According to the National Sleep Foundation some 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders that can affect their physical and mental health. Add the stress of the holidays and the lists of things you have to do, and you can count on at least a few sleepless nights during this otherwise joyous time of year. The big question is why.

“The holidays throw off sleep patterns,” says Jose Loredo, M.D., Director of the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Sleep Medicine Center. “Because of parties, gift shopping, eating more and drinking more, people tend to go to bed later this time of year, but still get up early. That can lead to sleep deprivation.”

Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Ph.D. Professor of Psychiatry at UCSD School of Medicine and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says that it may take several nights of good sleep to make up for one sleep-deprived night. “The more nights you skimp on sleep, the longer it will take you to catch up,” she says. “Remember that sleep is just as important as food and water. You need all three of them to be healthy.”

Loredo states that people often seek help for sleeping problems after the holidays when they realize that what they thought was a short-term problem is still with them. He has noticed that the higher an individual’s stress load during the holidays, the more likely a person is going to have trouble getting a good night’s rest. The trouble begins, he says, when people can’t turn off their thoughts because they have a lot on their minds. This can lead to temporary insomnia. If the insomnia goes beyond a couple of weeks, he advises seeing a sleep specialist for medical or behavioral intervention.

But before taking that step try these tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

? If you’re experiencing insomnia, don’t dwell on it. It will likely pass when you resume your reg
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