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How to Regulate Your Sleep

Staying awake when your body wants to sleep can really disrupt your internal clock. But you can't always control your sleep schedule. If you have to stay awake when tired because of travel or shift work, here are a few things to know.

What to Do for Jet Lag

If you travel by plane across several time zones, you're bound to feel tired for a few days. The culprit is jet lag. You can't avoid this travel pitfall altogether. However, you can minimize it with the following steps:

  1. Get a normal amount of sleep before your trip so you're rested up.
  2. Drink lots of fluids on the flight and during your vacation, because dehydration worsens jet lag. However, limit or avoid alcohol, which may fragment your sleep, making you even more tired.
  3. When you arrive, stay active during daylight hours, eat meals at the local time, and avoid overeating.
  4. Exercise regularly while traveling—but not too close to bedtime, which might keep you awake.
  5. Sleep the same amount of time in a 24-hour period while away as you would at home, even if it means taking some naps.

What to Do for Shift Work

If you work evenings and nights, you may sometimes feel out of sync with the rest of the world. However, as many as 20% of Americans work on these shifts. Lack of quality sleep tops the list of shift work-related problems. Poor sleep also could be to blame for the higher rate of ulcers, diabetes and heart disease among shift workers. Those who work irregular hours also may be more prone to depression and irritability.

The best course of action, then, is to set about getting more quality sleep by doing the following:

  1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
  2. Develop a relaxing, before-bed ritual - such as taking a warm bath, reading, or listening to soothing music.
  3. Try to stick to a regular bedtime - even on your days off.
  4. Darken your bedroom with window shades. Block any light seeping in under doors. Try wearing a sleep mask.
  5. Minimize outside noise with earplugs, a white noise machine, or even a noisy old fan.

If you still have problems sleeping, talk to your doctor. He or she can recommend other treatments to help you get a better night's rest.

Sources: Krames Staywell, Mayo Clinic

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