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Metabolic and endocrine changes resulting from a significant sleep debt mimic many of the hallmarks of aging. Chronic sleep loss may not only hasten the onset but could also increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and memory loss.

Sleep researchers have discovered that the brain needs time to erase or sift through the events of the day, just like a computer needs to clean its hard drive to create space for the next day’s events. Often, the nighttime is the only time some allow for this needed activity. So instead of sleeping, a stressed brain seems to race as it goes over the stressful events of the day.

The most important thing to remember about relieving stress is that our bodies need time to work out the effects of stress. Although it is not possible to control every factor that contributes to stress, it is possible to get the sleep we need so that we feel less cranky and more productive the following day. Effective strategies include:

  • Scheduling time to work through the stress and finding ways to eliminate problems so they don’t arise when you’re trying to sleep. Try to deal with worries and distractions several hours before bedtime.
  • Meditating before going to bed
  • Engaging in daily exercise (but not 4 hours before bedtime)
  • Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants before bedtime
  • Avoiding alcohol within 4 hours of bedtime as alcohol interrupts and fragments sleep
  • Taking warm bath and listening to relaxing music before bedtime
  • Avoiding watching TV before bedtime
  • Keeping regular sleep hours. Keep your biological check by going to bed around the same time each night and waking up close to the same time each morning — even on weekends

Mahmood Siddique 

Mahmood I. Siddique, DO, FACP, FCCP, FAASM, takes a modern, holistic approach to caring for his patients at Sleep and Wellness Medical Associates in Hamilton, New Jersey. He believes medicine is most effective when it considers not just the patient’s symptoms, but the broader connections among their overall physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being.