The Science of Sleeping Well: A Guide for Good Sleep

Another restless night. You try to sleep, but can’t. You get up and read, drink a cup of tea, watch a boring television show. Then, you go back to bed—and you still can’t sleep. You aren’t worried about anything in particular. You didn’t eat anything weird. You were at your desk, working, from daylight to dark. What in the world is wrong with you? Have you ever felt like that? Here’s what to do about it.

The Secret Maxim for Sleep

You’ve heard the maxims. You can probably repeat them word for word. Everyone knows this stuff:

  • A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

Well, here’s a new maxim—one that may be able to solve your (lack of) sleep problem. As with the other maxims, you probably don’t want to hear it, after all, once you hear the truth, you are obligated to either heed it or go on in willful defiance. If you would—sleep well, work well. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, one assertion is that regular activity improves sleep. Backed up by study after study, the idea can seem contradictory at first glance: The more active you are, the better you sleep. Below you will find key points from the research:

  • Improved sleep may also benefit your exercise, it’s a two-way street.
  • Exercise is a complex activity that may serve to stress the body.
  • Exercise is a non-drug alternative for the treatment of insomnia. However, there is no best type, intensity, or duration of exercise that works best.

What Is the Best Exercise to Treat Insomnia?

There is no best exercise, but the wrong exercise can stress, rather than relax you. What is the best exercise? It is the one that is right for you, and for many of us, that has nothing to do with pumping iron at the gym. Weight resistance is certainly advisable for all, but sweating and grunting your way through a brutal boot camp-style ordeal is not always the best answer. Try some of these:

Yoga: This is an old art, rediscovered. Yoga studios are flourishing, as dog-tired office workers find they can stumble in to a session tired and weak, but leave refreshed. Don’t think yoga is all about assuming weird positions, either. Many forms of yoga pack a genuine workout. Try guided fitness videos that focus on different methods of yoga that allow the session to take place in the privacy of your own home.

Walking: Only in the past century of human history has the automobile been the primary mode of transportation. Sure, riding on other animals was in vogue for thousands of years prior, yet most people walked a great deal and comparably few worked at a desk. Get active and start walking. See your neighborhood, your city, your life—differently.

Seek opportunity: Are there stairs to take in lieu of an elevator? Can you park further away from your destination, rather than seek the closest available spot? What if you carry your own golf bag and forego a cart? Are there trails near your home that need to be explored? Be on the lookout for ways to move, for moving is all it really takes to help your body welcome a good night’s sleep.

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How to Decorate your Bedroom for Fall

What’s the first room that you start to decorate for the Fall season? Chances are it’s your dining room or kitchen instead of your bedroom. The bedroom can be more difficult to decorate but we are going to lay out a few tips to help you transform your bedroom for Fall!

  • The best colors to start with for Fall are warm, earth type tones such as brown, yellow, gold, orange, etc. These colors signify the Autumn season and can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of your bedroom. You can use these colors in your bedspread, curtains, drapes, paintings, walls, and linens.
  • If you want different colored fabrics/prints for your couches or chairs in your room, purchase some slip-overs. This will save you money in the long run and eliminates the hassle of having to buy new furniture or have to move it around!
  • Another thing to pay attention to when redecorating your bedroom is lightning. This can have a tremendous impact on your overall theme! Get dimmer lights and/or opt for some nice candles. You can even get some scented candles such as pumpkin, vanilla, etc. to really embrace the Fall season.
  • When picking out curtains, comforters, etc., make sure to pick out textures such as wool, knits, and/or cashmere. Since it gets colder in the Fall season, you can also opt for thicker fabrics. Maybe change out that rug or throw blanket?
  • You can add some pieces of autumn inspired wall decor and/or paintings. Pick paintings that have a fall landscape or countryside to really embrace the look of Fall.
  • If you really want your bedroom to be more Fall-themed, bring in the outdoors. Place accent pieces from the outdoors such as pinecones, acorns, leaves, etc. in a decorative bowl. Or if you’re feeling up to the task, you can paint one of your walls in an accent color to really make your bedroom pop!

 

For more decorating ideas, check out some of the images below! Which one is your Fall favorite?

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There are many internal and external factors that can influence the quality and quantity of your sleep.

Overcoming Distractions to Catch Some Proper Zzz’s

There are many internal and external factors that can influence the quality and quantity of your sleep. Unfortunately, due to high stress levels and distractions, many have turned to sleeping pills. Yes, we all know that sleep is important, but below are some pointers and natural ways to boost the quality of your zzz’s.

Lighting

This is one of the most important external factors that can affect sleep. Light not only makes it difficult to fall asleep, but it also can influence our internal clock. We have light-sensitive cells in our retinas that tell the brain whether its daytime or nighttime, which then affects our preferred sleep time, explains Healthy Sleep. Exposure to light later in the evening can delay our internal clock and lead to later and later sleep times.

In order to combat excessive amounts of light coming through large windows in the bedroom, add blackout shades (they’re all the rage in Alaska!) or different types of curtains to help you get that extra hour(s) of sleep. It will help you stay refreshed and ready to tackle the day!

Stress and Anxiety

stressedGot an active mind that’s keeping you up at night? Holding onto those tiring and disturbing thoughts each night will keep your mind actively occupied and disrupt your sleep cycle.

To prevent a running mind at night, try turning off the TV, computer and any other electronics an hour before bed. Avoid reading the news or murder mysteries—go for something soothing instead. Put off difficult conversations with friends or family until the morning, and resist the temptation to start any projects that require serious brainpower. It’s likely that most problems can wait until morning.

Medications and Other Substances

Many common substances can affect the quality of sleep such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and antihistamines. Caffeine, everyone’s favorite stimulant, works by temporarily blocking specific receptors in the brain that build up our sleep drive during wakeful hours. If you’re one of the few that can manage to fall asleep after drinking multiple cups of java, it can still decrease the quality of REM sleep, explains WebMD. But, of course, caffeine’s effects will vary among people.

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Avoid wine before heading off to bed.

How many of us have self-medicated with a glass or wine or two to aid sleep? Guilty! Although it often helps us fall asleep faster, it can affect the quality. Furthermore, it can lead to increased awakenings and insomnia due to the way that it metabolizes in the blood stream.

So, instead of that classic cup of coffee or wine, consider drinking a soothing herbal tea or hot chocolate. Chamomile and peppermint teas help naturally de-stress the body, soothe your stomach and relieve anxiety, notes Time of India.

The Bedroom Environment

For me, there’s nothing better than sleeping on freshly-laundered sheets after a hot bath. It works wonders to sooth aching muscles and ease tension. Throw in some soothing scents like lavender or sandalwood essential oils for a heavenly mix. If you’re not a bath person, a shower with similar scented soaps or shower gels can do the trick, too!

You’ll also want to remove distractions from the bedroom. If you can, avoid having a TV or computer in your bedroom, turn your smartphone off and allow sleep to roll over you naturally. Also think about how old your mattress is and if it’s comfortable—if it’s been more than 10 years since you replaced it, a new one could make all the difference. And would music help? Some genres of music can be very soothing, but remember to keep the volume low.

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Saatva’s Eco-Friendly Mattress Reviewed on tothemotherhood.com

Recently, Saatva was praised for their eco-friendly mattresses on the blog tothemotherhood.com. In her review “Greener Sleep with Saatva Luxury Mattresses”, HiLesha O’Nan overviews some of the differences between traditional mattresses and Saatva’s eco-friendly mattresses. She also lists the “green” materials that Saatva uses in their luxury mattresses for a healthier, quality sleep.

HiLesha O’Nan notes that Saatva’s memory foam is never processed with irritating solutions such as formaldehyde. And although the mattress isn’t 100% organic(no mattress really is), their foams are bio-based using at least 30% soy or corn oil. This greatly reduces the chance of any allergic reactions and also keeps the material gentle to the skin.

Key Components of Saatva’s Eco-Friendly Materials

  • Outer organic cotton blended with hypo-allergenic fibers
  • Natural thistle barrier flame retardant
  • Recycled innersprings
  • Oven-baked tempered recycled steel
  • Memory foam layer made from safe bio-based foam

Eco-Friendly Mattress Comfort Levels

Saatva has three mattress comfort levels to choose from: Plush Soft, Luxury Firm(flagship level), and Firm. HiLesha O’Nan picked the Plush Soft 14.5″ mattress with the 8″ foundation.

  1. Plush Soft: This comfort level is best for those that prefer soft mattresses and tend to sleep on their side and sometimes their back. It’s also a good choice if you like to feel enveloped in your bed and if you have problems with your arms falling asleep before you do.
  2. Luxury Firm: This is Saatva’s flagship level and it’s the comfort level you will find in some of the finest hotels. It’s best for people that prefer to sleep on their side, back or stomach. It’s also good for couples who have different sleeping needs and/or switch positions often during the night.
  3. Firm: This level is best for people who prefer their mattress firm but not hard. Most people choose this mattress if they sleep on their back or stomach and prefer to feel like they are on floating on top of the mattress rather than sinking into.

Quote from reviewer HiLesha O’Nan about Saatva Luxury Mattress:

“My bed is honestly now the most comfortable, yet supportive bed I’ve slept in for the longest time…The Saatva Plush Soft Luxury Mattress is everything that I look for in a mattress and more. It’s green luxury at its finest!”

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laborday

Labor Day History: How Much Do You Know?

What does Labor Day mean to you? To many Americans it means two things: a day off and the ending of summer. Do you know the meaning behind Labor Day though and the importance behind it?

In honor of Labor Day, we have decided to compile a fun list of interesting facts about this holiday.

Labor Day Facts: How Many Do You Know?

  • Labor Day actually originated in Canada, not the United States. As part of the labor disputes in Toronto, a parade was held in 1872 protesting the 58 hour workweek. This holiday wasn’t proposed in the United States until 1882.
  • The first Labor Day was observed as part of a parade held by the Central Labor Union(CLU) of New York. On September 5, 1882, approximately 10,000 workers took unpaid leave and marched in support of workers’ rights.
  • On February 21, 1887, Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day an official holiday in the United States.
  • In the late 1800′s, it was the common norm for adults to work 12 hour workdays, 7 days a week! And kids started working in factories starting as young as 5-6 years of age.
  • As part of his political campaign, President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a nationally recognized holiday in 1894 in the United States. It has been celebrated on the first Monday of September every year since then.
  • The first Labor Day “festivities” included picnics, speeches, lager beer kegs, etc.
  • It’s unknown who actually started Labor Day. Some say Matthew Maguire, a machinist, proposed it while serving as secretary of the CLU. Others contest that Peter J. McGuire, of the American Federation of Labor, proposed it after witnessing a labor festival in Toronto, Canada.
  • Labor Day existed two decades before the U.S. Department of Labor was established.
  • Union membership was at its all time high in the 1950′s when nearly 40% of workers were union workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 11% of the work force today are union members.

Labor Day Quote

samuelgomperslaborday

“Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country. All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation.” - Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor

We hope you learned a thing or two and that you have a safe and relaxing Labor Day weekend! If you are traveling this holiday, as most people are, follow these safe travel tips.

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What Mattress Size Should I Get?

If  you are shopping for a new mattress, keep in mind that the mattress size is a key factor to consider! Whether you are shopping just for yourself, you and your spouse, or your kids, it’s important to note how much space you need.

Imagine finding the perfect mattress, only to realize moments later that it’s too small or too big! Couples often make the mistake of choosing a double or “full” mattress and soon find out that it’s too small for both of them to sleep comfortably. It’s a good rule of thumb to pick a mattress that is taller than you so your feet don’t hang off.

 

Different Mattress Sizes

mattresssizes

  • Twin: This is a popular mattress size choice for toddlers and young kids. With dimensions at 39 inches wide by 75 inches long, it’s the smallest mattress size available besides crib-sized mattresses. If you are comfortable with the width of the mattress but your feet hang off, the Twin XL is a good choice. The Twin XL is the same width but is 5 inches longer and is a popular choice for college dormitories.
  • Full: The full mattress is also sometimes called the Double. This mattress is 54 inches wide by 75 inches long, which makes it only 15 inches wider than the twin mattress. This mattress size is best for single sleepers who are shorter than 5 feet 5 inches.
  • Queen: This is the most popular mattress size choice. It measures 60 inches wide by 80 inches long, which leaves plenty of room for a single sleeper. It’s also a good size for couples but keep in mind that each partner will have only 30 inches of personal space.
  • rightmattresssizeforfamilyKing: If the queen doesn’t accommodate you and your partner, then the king mattress size might be a better choice. With dimensions at 76 inches wide by 80 inches long, there’s enough space for you and your partner to fit comfortably. Each person has 38 inches of personal space, which is about how much room they would have if they slept on a twin alone. The king also allows plenty space in case your kid/kids want to join you or you want your pets to join you in bed.
  • California King: If you need a taller mattress than the king, then the california king is a good option. It measures 72 inches wide by 84 inches long. If you like the size of the king but need something narrower, the california king would fit better in your room. Just make sure before you choose the king or california king that you have enough space in your bedroom.

 

Mattress Size Factors to Consider Before Buying

  • Figure out how much space you have in the bedroom/bedrooms that you are going to place the mattress.
  • Do you or your spouse take up more room, move constantly in your sleep, need more room, etc.
  • Do you allow your pets in your bed and if so, is there enough room for them?
  • Are there any health concerns that you need to address?
  • If you want a king mattress, will it fit comfortably in your bedroom?
  • How much are you willing to spend?

For more help finding the right mattress size, head over the bettersleep.org.

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stressed

How to Combat Stress and Sleep Better

Stress. It’s a feeling that’s common to many American adults today. It leaves you feeling jittery, anxious, and at times unable to fall asleep.

There are many things that happen in our adult life that can lead us to feeling stressed out. Issues with work, money, and our personal relationships are just a few issues that can overwhelm us and cause us to feel stressed. Stress and sleep go hand in hand. According to a survey conducted by Huffington Post, not getting enough sleep is a major stress trigger.

stressandsleep

Although it’s normal to feel stressed, people tend to take their stress with them to bed. According to an article on Reader’s Digest, it can set you up for chronic insomnia. People who have insomnia caused by stress have trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep.

Tips to Combat Stress and Sleep Better

If stress is affecting your sleep on a nightly basis, the following four tips can help you combat stress to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and sleep better overall.

  • Plan your daily routine for the next day early. Doing this earlier in the day can help you avoid thinking about it during bedtime. People who tend to lie in bed going through their to-do list for the next day find it a lot more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Take any sleep distractions out of your bedroom. Avoid watching television or eating in bed. Make your bedroom a sanctuary and a place that helps you relax and sleep better.
  • Find a relaxing activity before bedtime. Take a bath, enjoy a hot cup of tea, read a good book, or any other activity that doesn’t actively stimulate your brain. By making a relaxing activity a part of your routine before bed, you will be able to catch those Zzz’s faster.
  • Make exercise a priority. Not only is regular exercise important for your overall health, but physical activity also helps reduce stress! Just make sure to not exercise too close to your bedtime or the extra energy may make it harder for you to stay asleep.
  • Listen to soothing music. Several research studies have proven that music can have a positive effect on your overall mood. Try listening to some light jazz, or any type of music that relaxes you if you are stressed before going to sleep.
  • Clean up your room. Living in a cluttered bedroom or house can leave you feeling stressed. If you are feeling anxious about the clutter, clean it up before heading to sleep. It will be another thing already taken care of on your to-do list!
  • Write it down. If talking to someone about your stresses doesn’t help, try writing it down in a journal. Writing down everything that is bugging you right before bed can help you solve problems and balance out your emotions. It can also help you mentally prepare for the next day and help you get in a more positive state of mind.

Making these small changes can help you manage your stress better during the day, and help keep it at bay during bedtime.

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foodandsleep

Best and Worst Foods to Eat Before Bed

Believe it or not getting a good night sleep doesn’t have everything to do with your bed. Of course, a good bed is important for your back and it does help you sleep better. However, what you do and eat during the day is as equally important to your overall quality of sleep. Exercising daily and eating a healthy diet helps you not only fall asleep faster but also stay asleep longer.

The type of food you consume before bed can ultimately affect how well you sleep(or don’t sleep) through the night.

Certain types of food right before bed can either help you sleep better because of the nutrients they provide, or they can rob you of a good night’s sleep because they don’t have enough of the right nutrients.

The Best Foods for Better Sleep

According to eatingwell.com, the following are foods that you should add to your diet to help you sleep better.

1.) Fish- they boast vitamin B6, which helps make melatonin—a sleep-inducing hormone.

2.) Jasmine Rice- according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating a carbohydrate rich dinner with a high glycemic-index such as jasmine rice can help you fall asleep significantly faster at bedtime.

foodforbettersleep3.) Tart Cherry Juice- this is a melatonin rich drink that helps aid sleep and can help insomniacs relieve the severity of their sleep disorder.

4.) Yogurt- being calcium-deficient makes it difficult to sleep, and dairy products such as yogurt help boast doses of calcium.

5.) Whole Grains- magnesium rich foods such as bulgur and barley make it easier to stay asleep throughout the night.

Adding more of these vitamin rich foods to your diet can help you get a better night’s sleep by making it easier to go to sleep and helping you stay asleep longer.

Foods to Avoid Before Going to Sleep

Here are a few foods that fitnessmagazine.com suggests to stay away from before going to bed.

1.) Protein- foods with lots of protein tend boost energy levels rather than actually calming you down in time for sleep.

2.) Alcohol – while consuming alcohol before bed may actually help you fall asleep, it leads to fragmented sleep. You fall asleep faster but you never actually enter the REM stage of sleep which is vital to your health.

3.) Fatty Foods- foods that are high in fat tend to cause you to have an upset stomach and this can make it uncomfortable to stay asleep.

4.) Spicy Foods- these foods can also cause you to have stomach problems throughout the night. It has also been reported that they affect your dreams at night and has caused people to have nightmares!

foodstoavoid5.) Caffeine- many people know that caffeine is a stimulant but many don’t know that it actually stays in your system for up to 8 to 10 hours! It’s best to cut out that caffeine in the afternoon.

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mindfulnesssleeptips

Mindfulness Techniques to Give You a Stress-Free Night’s Sleep

The buzzword in the psychological circles is mindfulness. Mindfulness means sustaining a continuous awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. When you are mindful, you are aware of the random, anxious thoughts that float up and ruin our daytime focus and nighttime sleep. More than 2000 years old, mindfulness is the Buddhist’s philosophy for attaining enlightenment. Even if you are not trying to find peaceful release from the suffering of this material world, mindfulness may be able to release you into a peaceful night’s sleep.

Body Awareness

cantsleep
Avoid these 10 sleep mistakes!

To get a restful night’s sleep, mindfulness dictates that you are aware of how your body prepares for sleep. Studies show that body awareness can affect a response in others and in yourself. Being aware of and changing the way you hold your body can change the way that people think about you. This persuasive technique can work to convince your body to sleep. As you lay in bed, let you mind pass over your body like an astral projected MRI. Assess each part. Do your feet hurt? Are you hungry? Check your breathing. Is it unobstructed? From this mindful perspective, begin make small adjustments to inspire your body into restful sleep.

Mindful Movement

If your body needs more encouragement then use movement therapy techniques to relax it. Studies reported in the journal Arts in Psychotherapy show that movement can significantly reduce stress and offer a general sense of relaxation that can lead to a good night’s sleep. Hot tubs are the perfect place to conduct relaxing movements. Not only does the aeration force movement throughout your limbs but the heat of the water stimulates blood flow that reduces pain, notes Carolyn Mosby of Hot Tub Works. Add yoga or tai chi to the hot tubing routine to get the most out of your movement therapy.

Calming Your Thoughts

mindfulnessmeditationMindful meditation practices have been shown to have a positive effect on sleeping patterns, even if the person is living through the worst possible stressors. Practicing mindfulness has also been said to be as effective as antidepressants for those who battle depression, according to The Greater Good Science Center, based at The University of California, Berkeley. Zen meditation is a way of controlling your thoughts. Lay in bed and take several deep, cleansing breaths. Go through the body awareness practice and make adjustments so that you are as comfortable as possible. When you are ready, clear your mind and think of absolutely nothing—thinking about not thinking does not count. Push away any thought that pops into your mind. At the beginning, you will probably only be able to maintain this mental void for a second or two. With practice, you will increase this time as you develop more control over sleep depriving thoughts.

Attentive Diet

Sleep affects diet and diet affects sleep, according to the official journal of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society, Physiology & Sleep. Short sleep duration, late bedtimes, and poor sleep quality are linked to increased food consumption. It is a vicious cycle. Mindful eating requires that you monitor what you eat each day and how it affects your sleep—a food and sleep journal would be a good idea. Of course, there are some tried and true home remedies for the sleepless. Hospital clinicians still give a glass of warm milk for patients that are having problems sleeping. Chamomile tea is a soothing routine to start your nighttime slumber.

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howsleeplossaffectswomen

Common Sleep Problems Among Women

In an earlier blog post we explored common sleep problems and disorders that ail adults in the United States. Not getting the necessary sleep affects everyone. However, it doesn’t have the same affect on everyone equally. According to research cited on WebMD, women who report sleepless nights have a greater chance for health problems than men who have the same problem.

Sleep loss affects a person’s overall health. Yet the studies that looked at gender differences found that women who have a difficult time sleeping at night have an elevated risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression.

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Don’t let your sleep problems take over your life!

Not only are women with poor sleep habits at an elevated risk for diseases but according to a NSF Sleep in America poll, women are also more likely to have a hard time falling and staying asleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 40 million American men and women suffer from sleep disorders. However, sleep problems such as insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and nighttime pain are more commonly reported by women.

Four Common Sleep Problems Reported by Women

  • insomniasleepproblems
    Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems reported among women.

    Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems. For women, insomnia may be caused by menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. There are many approaches that can help with insomnia. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol and caffeine are all changes that can help improve overall sleep quality.

  • Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder affecting one in 2,000 people. People with narcolepsy have excessive daytime sleepiness and can suddenly have “sleep attacks,” an extreme urge to sleep. Thanks to scientific breakthroughs, new treatments can better manage the symptoms of this disorder.
  • Restless leg syndrome(RLS) is a movement disorder affecting up to 12 million Americans. According to a Sleep in America poll, 18 percent of the female population suffered from RLS. Restless Leg Syndrome can cause daytime sleepiness, mood swings, anxiety, and ultimately depression. Vitamin supplements and other medications can help treat RLS symptoms.
  • Nighttime pains, such as muscle cramps, are painful contractions or a tightening of a muscle that comes suddenly and can last a few seconds up to several minutes. Muscle cramps can occur due to pregnancy, exercise, dehydration or certain medications such as birth control. You can help mitigate the severity of muscle cramps through stretching, warm showers, ice or cold packs, and making sure to stay hydrated.

Although some sleep disorders can be mitigated through small lifestyle changes, others are more serious. Whether you’re a man or a woman, stay informed and go to the doctor if your sleep problems seem out of control.

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