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4 Habits That Are Keeping You Up at Night

4 Habits That Are Keeping You Up at Night
Image credit: Karma Jello

We all know the health risks of lack of sleep, yet despite warnings of increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiac conditions, most of us fall short of the recommended seven to nine hours of shut eye per day. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports 30 percent of employed American adults get under six hours of sleep per day.

Lack of sleep is a serious problem for business. Dr. Michael Breus, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4 Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health (Dutton, 2006) says sleep can cause you to make bad business decisions. "The more sleep deprived you are, the more emotional your decision-making becomes, the slower you react and the slower you think," says Breus.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School found one-third of American workers aren't getting enough shut-eye to function at peak levels and this chronic exhaustion is costing companies billions of dollars in lost productivity. Being a smart sleeper is just as important as being a smart entrepreneur, but lack of sleep often goes undiagnosed. While you may think you're getting enough sleep, if you answer yes to any of the questions below, chances are you aren't reaping the benefits of your slumber.

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 Are you in asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow?
"If you fall asleep in less than ten minutes, this is a sure sign you're significantly sleep deprived," says Breus. Sleep is a process that takes approximately 30 minutes for the body to complete. "Sleep is not an on/off switch. It's more like pulling your foot off the gas and slowly putting it on the brakes. There's a process that needs to occur and the body needs time to shut down properly," says Breus.

Do you enjoy a drink before bed?
"Alcohol is a muscle relaxant," says Breus. While alcohol may help you hit the pillow faster by calming you down, it has a negative impact on your quality of sleep. Alcohol is also a diuretic, so it may wake you in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and keeps you out of the deep stages of sleep (REM sleep), causing multiple awakenings and leaving you feeling fatigued the next day.

Do you exercise right before bedtime?
While it's true people who exercise sleep better than those who don't, Breus recommends completing your workout at least 90 minutes before bedtime. "That's how long it takes for your body to cool down," he says. Exercise raises your core body temperature, which needs to drop to signal the brain to release melatonin --a hormone that signals your body to shut down for the night.

Do you have coffee in the evening?
While you may be able to fall asleep after drinking a cup of coffee, your body will feel caffeine's stimulant effects into the night. "The average person metabolizes caffeine in about eight to ten hours," says Breus. Drinking coffee late in the evening disrupts the body's natural sleep patterns and leaves you feeling sluggish the next morning.

Related: 5 Simple Daily Habits to Practice This New Year

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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