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Better Health in 2014 - get your shut-eye

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Have you hit a weight plateau? Are you thinking you have two, maybe three more days to do whatever the heck you want because there are big plans ahead for 2014 and your health?

"Improving sleep during the nighttime can really be very effective in improving quality of life in the daytime," says Dr. Alon Avidan, M.D., MPH, a professor of neurology and the director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center.

Sadly we read more than a few times this year about a fatal accident due to falling asleep on the job. The latest one the derailment of the Metro North train in New York City last month.

Does your New Year Resolution have get fit, lose weight, eat more nutritiously, stress less and save more money on the list? Forbes reports that only about 8 percent of people successfully achieve their resolutions, according to University of Scranton Research.

However, it could be that the reason all your other resolutions are failing -- and the reason you're having trouble making sound food choices or keeping weight off to begin with -- is you're ignoring a simple yet powerful component of total health: sleep.

Have you said to yourself, I’ve got to go to sleep because the longer I stay up; the more I want to snack? Short sleepers who stay up late seem to be more likely to consume late-night snacks and more calories in general. Cruel as it may seem, fatigue also seems to cloud the mind in a way that makes it more difficult to select nutritious food options and easier to fill grocery carts with high-calorie, impulse buys. And on top of it all, not getting enough sleep seems to trigger hunger, likely due to an imbalance of the hormones that control those pangs. In a small 2012 study, researchers found that short sleep increased levels of ghrelin, which triggers hunger, in men, and lowered levels of an appetite-suppressing hormone called GLP-1 in women, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Skimping on sleep increases your risk not only for potentially life-threatening health crises like stroke, heart attack and cancer, it also ups your chances of dying younger from any cause. People who regularly got less than six hours of sleep a night were 12 percent more likely to die over a 25-year period than people who slept between six and eight hours a night, according to a study published in the journal SLEEP, the BBC reported.

Make it your New Year Resolution to commit to these simple changes: avoid caffeine later in the day. Get that TV out of your bedroom. If you have to finish up a few games on your iPad, read a few more Tweets, or post another picture to Instagram, do so before you get in bed. Give yourself and your eyes time to adjust by turning off all the artificial light.

Do you snore? You might be dealing with sleep apnea, talk to your doc about your snoring.

And if you’re under 40 and thinking I’ll deal with this later, now is the time for me to make money so I can retire and live in Hawaii. Sadly, by retirement the only Hawaii you’ll be seeing is on the ceiling of the hospital while you’re waiting for yet another surgery. Sleep deprivation will catch up with you in one way or the other.

Lack of sleep will keep you from losing weight, will cause you to make poor food choices, may keep you from sticking to a work out plan. So, schedule your sleep if you must, as you schedule other activities.

Get proper shut-eye in 2014 and watch yourself check off New Year Resolutions as done, not as pending.

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