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Image of middle-aged woman yawning

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominic, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mistake 6: Not getting enough sleep. Not only are fewer hours of sleep likely to show up on your face, but they can increase your risk of other health problems like diabetes, cancer and premature death.

I’ve always needed a lot of sleep. Many years ago I read that if you let your body sleep as long as it wants for several days and made note of how long you slept each night, that would indicate how many hours of sleep your body needed on average. Mine was nine. Still is. And lucky for me, I can get nine hours of sleep on some weekends. What a luxury. It’s what keeps me getting out of bed at 5:15 on weekdays.

While I’m on the subject of sleep, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Source: Why Is It So Hard for Women to Get Some Sleep?) found that middle-aged women are the most likely to take sleeping pills. Use of sleeping pills began increasing when women hit their 40s and 50s, and more educated women were more likely to take the pills. Six percent of those 50-59 years of age had consumed a sleep aid in the past 30 days.

Of those studied, 25% had reported sleep problems—either difficulty falling asleep or waking up during the night and not being able to resume sleep—to their doctors.

A study performed at the Scripps Clinic (Source: Sleeping pills linked to early death, cancer) found that regular sleeping pill users were nearly four times more likely to die prematurely.

The primary cause of sleep difficulties in middle-aged women is considered to be a mixture of hormonal changes and stress. Women in midlife are particularly vulnerable to stress because they might still have children to care for, as well as elderly parents who need attention. Add to that a full-time job and stress levels go up even more.

The FDA recommended in January that the makers of sleeping pills cut the dose recommended for women in half because the medication remains in the bloodstream longer in women, and they often have morning grogginess after taking the pills.

A friend told me long ago that wiping your mind clean of all thoughts helps you fall asleep. I think it’s impossible to do this, but what help me is this: With your eyes closed, visualize something really tiny. I picture a black background with a tiny white dot–smaller that a straight pin head–in the middle. Stay focused on it; if you catch your mind wander, bring it back to the tiny object again. Keep doing this until…well, until you don’t have to anymore.

How early do you have to get up in the morning?

What do you do to help yourself fall asleep?