Feeling sleepy? You're not alone

If you're feeling groggy today, you're not alone. A new report from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield finds many of us need more sleep.

The study finds Central New York adults get about seven hours of sleep per night. That's good, considering seven to eight is what experts recommend. But it's less than what we were getting decades ago. The report finds the amount of time we're sleeping has decreased 1.5 to 2 hours less sleep each day over the last 50 years.

Women appear to have more trouble sleeping than men with more reports of insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping in short spurts. In fact, ladies have trouble sleeping 26 percent of the time, compared to 21 percent of men. The report finds insomnia affects women more than men, in part, due to female hormonal changes and higher instances of anxiety and depression.

Young adults, ages 18 to 29, appear to sleep the least, averaging 6.9 hours a day. Middle-aged people, those 30 to 64, sleep about 6.7 hours a day. Adults over age 65 sleep the most, catching about 7.4 hours of zzz's per day.

Those 18 to 29 report having trouble sleeping 33 percent of the time, compared to middle-aged adults (23 percent of the time) and older adults (16 percent of the time).

Exercise is key to make sure you get enough rest. Those who reported no physical activity had a tough time sleeping 32 percent of the time, compared to 21 percent who had trouble getting rest among those who worked out.

"A healthy diet, regular exercise and proper rest have long been recognized as key components of good health," said Marybeth McCall, M.D, vice president and chief medical officer of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield's Central New York region. "Some research supports an association between regular exercise and improved sleep quality," she added.

The report finds there's a financial toll to all of this as well. Nationally, lost productivity related to insufficient sleep accounts for an estimated $50 billion a year. It can also take a toll on your body too, leading to long-term health problems like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. However, according to the report, it's not clear whether the lack of sleep causes these problems or whether those problems existed before and cause the sleep problems to develop.

Lack of sleep can be very dangerous too. A 2009 New York State Health department survey finds 12,000 adult drivers admit they nodded off or fell asleep even just for a brief moment while driving.

"As a society, we need to recognize the dangers of trying to get by with fewer hours of sleep and wake up to the health benefits of a good night's rest," Dr. McCall said.

Here are some tips from the National Institutes of Health to get a good night's rest:

-- Stick to a sleep schedule.

-- Exercise is great but not too late in the day.

-- Avoid caffeine and nicotine (caffeine's effect can last as long as 8 hours).

-- Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.

-- Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.

-- If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep.

-- Don't take naps after 3 p.m.

-- Relax before bed.

-- Take a hot bath before bed.

-- Have a good sleeping environment.

The good news is that you'll get an extra hour of sleep this weekend thanks to Daylight Saving Time. Don't forget to set your clocks back Saturday night and enjoy that extra 60 minutes of zzzz's.

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