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Sleep your way to a better life

By Dr. Ira Shapiro
Director of the Plaza Chiropractic Center
Old Bridge

The research just keeps coming. Sleep is essential for both mental and physical well being. There are no doubts. Nearly every study has confirmed the negative effects of not getting a good night’s sleep.

It’s true. Some people can get by with less, while others aren’t energized with less than seven to eight hours in the hay. But, the long-term effects of “short sleeping” are continually reinforced with each new finding. High blood pressure, obesity, migraines, diabetes, depression, irritability, colon cancer, and even sexual performance problems have been linked to sleep issues.

And, the list goes on. Some researchers have found that one bad night of sleep night can reduce alertness and the ability to perform everyday tasks by nearly one-third. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates drowsy driving results in 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities annually. In fact, a 10-year study by the University of Copenhagen even found that middle-aged men who slept badly were five times more likely to commit suicide.

So, never underestimate the importance of sleep. Going without is not a sign of masculinity, toughness, or endurance. It’s a formula for disaster that one way or another will eventually negatively impact your life. Plus, it’s not a matter of if. The only questions surround when and how.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), on average adults should optimally receive between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. But, even the NSF admits that time alone should not be used to define sleep. Quantity and quality are different issues. If you wake up more than once per night and lie awake for 20 minutes or more you’re not doing it right. Eighty-five percent of your time in bed should be spent in sleep. With few exceptions, you should wake every morning “feeling refreshed, as if you’ve filled the tank.”

Now the reality. The NSF estimates that 20 percent of Americans get less than 6 hours of sleep on average, while the Sleep Management Institute says that about 40 percent of the general population is affected by insomnia or the inability to either fall or stay asleep. This can range from a few weeks to months or even longer. Common causes involve stress, physical or emotional duress, illness, and environmental disturbances like noise, light, or extreme temperatures.

The good news is many of these issues are the result of bad habits and controllable. First of all, every expert will tell you that bed should be used for two things – sleep and sex. So, start each night by turning off the phone, tv, lights, and any other possible form of visible or audible distraction.

Next, give up the extra cup of coffee late in the day or heavy meals several hours before bedtime. Also, rethink that nightcap. While, alcohol can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, it has been shown to awaken people later in the night.

Furthermore, consider a daily exercise program. People who work out regularly sleep better, feel more rested during the day, and spend more time in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. The key is developing a regular routine that is both safe and challenging. Run, walk, bike, garden, do yoga or Zumba – it doesn’t matter. Start slow, be smart, and find something you like. And, never work through the pain. There’s no point to eliminating one problem by creating another.

For more information on creating better, fitter and healthier lives for the entire family please contact the Plaza Chiropractic Center at 732-723-0023 or visit www.plazachiro.com. Our trained staff will be happy to work with you, no matter your age or condition, to develop a safe and effective wellness program that complements your life style and offers long-lasting fitness rewards.


Dr. Ira A. Shapiro is the director of the Plaza Chiropractic Center, which he founded in Old Bridge, New Jersey in 1984. A two-time member of the U.S. Olympics medical team staff, throughout the past three decades Dr. Shapiro has provided safe, gentle and effective chiropractic care to tens of thousands of patients ranging from community members to professional athletes competing at the highest international levels.

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