Columbia University Medical Center

8 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight

It’s seems as if it should be so easy. All you have to do is lie down, close your eyes, and drift off into dreamland.

But “sleep is not automatic,” as Dr. Carl Bazil, MD, PhD, a sleep expert at Columbia University Medical Center, explained. Try as we might, we can’t simply will ourselves into slumber. It’s a process that most of us need to work at through relaxation techniques—or other changes in our behavior—a little more complicated than counting sheep.

According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, more than half of American adults reported having sleep issues every night or almost every night. And those lost hours of shuteye don’t just lead to morning grumpiness; sleep deprivation weakens our immune system and significantly impairs cognition and performance.

“Losing sleep is actually not trivial—it has a lot of bad effects,” said Dr. Bazil. “For instance, [researchers] have proven that if you’re not well rested and you get exposed to the flu virus, you’re more likely to get it.”

So how do we best prepare ourselves for quality sleep, and how do we know if we’re actually getting it? In recognition of National Sleep Awareness Week, Dr. Bazil addresses common concerns about sleep and discusses the importance of sleep awareness.

Michele Hoos

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