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The benefits of: Sleep

By Brigid Delaney
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- It's a mistake to underestimate the power of sleep. The former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once proclaimed she slept only four hours a night.

What she didn't tell us was that years of too little sleep eventually takes its toll on our health and possibly causes premature death.

About 30 percent of British people will experience sleep disorders during their lives, from insomnia to sleep apnoea, which is linked to cardiovascular problems.

Many more will experience pervasive tiredness, propping themselves up with caffeine or sugar. Business is thriving for private sleep clinics, which treat an increasing number of people with sleep disorders.

They include those upset by world events such as the Iraq war or professionals who find the stresses of work prevent them "switching off"' at night.

While serious sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea sometimes requires medical treatment, so called 'low level' sleep disorder such a tiredness or insomnia affected many more of us, yet they are likely to be untreated.

Many of us suffer in silence hoping the problem will go away. The trigger for insomnia can be a stressful or emotional event such as job loss, death of a loved one or divorce.

Sleep doctors say treatment can include relaxation training, hypnosis, medication and sleep restriction, where sleep is stimulated by restricting sleep and therefore increasing sleepiness.

There are also things you can do at home. Sleep doctors call it 'sleep hygiene' which is basically a set of rules or behavior that can lead to a good night's sleep.

Sleep hygiene is about creating good conditions in which to sleep. Apply these few simple rules and create a "cleaner" place to rest your head:

  • No drinking alcohol or coffee before bedtime.
  • No TV in the bedroom.
  • Have a regular waking time.
  • Do early morning exercise.

  • story.sleep.jpg

    There's nothing like a good book to help you get to sl... zzzzzzzzz

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