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Jan 02, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- CAN'T SLEEP? TRY THESE TIPS

If you want to maximize your health, wealth and youthfulness in 2004, start by sleeping the night away, experts advise. The slumber debt runs up a high tab in injury and death on the highway and on the job, poor performance and reduced productivity in school and at work and, some studies suggest, increased susceptibility to ulcers, heart disease, obesity, depression and a host of age-related ailments. With the dawn of a new year, the growing ranks of slumber scrooges should awaken to the costly and, at times, fatal consequences of skimping on sleep, and resolve to give their mind and body a richly deserved rest, scientists urge.

A United Press International survey of 71 sleep specialists has produced a number of suggestions that could lead you to the land of the sleeping. They include:

--Follow a routine of retiring and rising on a timeline that deviates by no more than two hours every day, even on weekends.

--Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, which suppresses deep sleep, within three to six hours, and heavy meals within three hours, of bedtime.

--Use your bed for resting or sleeping, not for doing extra office work, watching television or playing video games (unless it helps you to doze off).

--Exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day, but no later than three hours before lights out.

--Sip warm milk, herb tea or other non-caffeinated drinks before turning in for the night to raise body temperature and help transport you to dreamland.

--Nibble on bananas, turkey, peanut butter or other foods rich in tryptophan, a compound that produces a natural sedative effect.

--Refrain from naps when you get home from work or school because they can reduce "sleep pressure" and, hence, your subsequent ability to drift off for the night.

--Put work aside two to three hours before you go to sleep.

--If sleep fails to claim you within 20 minutes, get out of bed and read for a while, selecting soothing rather than stimulating material.

--Partake of massage, meditation, music, yoga, positive imagery, biofeedback, a warm bath or other techniques that help the brain kick back and unwind.

--Write out a "worry list" of bothersome matters half an hour before bedtime and deal with it before your head hits the pillow.

--Keep the room quiet, dark and cool, and wear socks to sleep to keep toes toasty.

--Consult a doctor before taking melatonin, which may produce insomnia if given at the wrong time, or other sleep aides, which may prove ineffective, unhealthy or habit-forming.

--Dim the lights two to three hours before bedtime and get out in bright sunshine for five to 30 minutes as soon as you arise to help set your brain's internal clock to your sleep-wake schedule.

--Have sex, which some studies have identified as a sleep promoter.

--If slumber continues to elude you, consider a visit to a sleep specialist.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.


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