Are you the kind of person who easily rises every morning full of energy and ready to face the day? You can be. One of the simplest ways to improve your overall health and productivity is to ensure that you have better sleep every night.
A good nights sleep can change how the whole of your next day unfolds, whether you want to crawl under your desk at noon, or growl at your spouse, or go for that donut with your morning coffee.
Apart from your mood and your outlook as you face each morning, lack of adequate sleep can lead to increased risk of adverse health.
Still, so many of us are just not sleeping enough.
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According to The National Sleep Foundation, 45% of
Americans report trouble with sleep at least once in the past seven days affecting their ability to function during the day.
This is how much sleep you need:
A sleep duration of 7–9 h for adults (26–64 y of age) and 7–8 h for older adults (≥65 y of age) is necessary for optimal health, whereas the duration of <6 h for adults and 5–6 h for older adults is insufficient.
Many things affect the quality of sleep, including nutrition, hormones, stress, daily activities, medications, and general health.
Why is good sleep so important?
Sleep affects many areas of health such:
- Mental health and fortitude
- Sleep affects mood
- Productivity can be dependent t on good sleep
- Relationships can be affected by sleep
- Decision making can be affected by sleep
- Weight loss and weight gain, and subsequent metabolic health can be affected by sleep
- Overall Health including growth and development requires good sleep
How you sleep and the quality of sleep impact how well you do and perform in your waking hours.
And the things you do in your waking hours impact your sleep, in a sort of feedback loop.
So as you go about your day think about how the things you are doing are going to affect your sleep and rest and at night, and how that sleep, in turn, will impact the quality of your day and the ensuing productivity.
Sleep affects the ability to make good decisions
A 2013 study published in Neuroimage found that adolescents who get less than 8 hours of sleep are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors such as drugs, smoking, and unprotected sex.
Their brains also showed less executive function and more activation in the reward-seeking areas of the brain. So, mamas and dads, you have an even bigger reason to make sure those teens turn in early and really sleep.
And while the study was on adolescents sleep deprivation affect one’s ability to have the fortitude to make good decisions, and to be resilient in the face of tough situations.
How the lack of quality Sleep affects memory
If you find that you are forgetting where you put your keys more than usual, you may want to gauge how much and how well you are sleeping.
Sleep loss affects your memory as shown in this article.
The researchers found that even short periods of sleep deprivation impaired learning and memory.
Researchers found that even short periods of inadequate sleep impaired the neuronal connectivity that happens in the hippocampus when new information is presented.
The hippocampus is the area of the brain where memories are processed and consolidated into long term memories.
These brief periods of sleep loss have long-lasting consequences such as impaired memory consolidation, which is a complex neurobiological process that includes synaptic consolidation in which growth of new synaptic connections and restructuring of the existing ones occurs. This has great implication for your mental health and long-term memory and learning.
This is one great reason why we cannot take a lack of adequate sleep lightly.
You can read more in this study in the Current Opinion Neurobiological Journal
Slow wave sleep is essential for body restoration and promotion of brain plasticity. That’s why you need to sleep enough. Unfortunately, slow wave sleep decreases as we age.
But don’t fret, this research found that it can be improved through hypnosis by a whopping 81% and time spent awake reduced by 67%.
So, if you want to try and improve your slow wave sleeping, get a hypnosis tape, or an app. I’m sure in the 21 century it would be an app.
Sleep deprivation leads to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and chronic disease.
Research shows that sleep deprivation ultimately leads to obesity. A 2014 metanalysis study found that sleep deprivation correlated to obesity and short sleep duration has been shown to be “associated with all-cause mortality regardless of weight gain” studies show
One may wonder how and why sleep deprivation leads to obesity.
There are many reasons why obesity can result from inadequate sleep
Research shows that sleeping late and being sleep deprived may cause one to eat more for example. Short sleep duration results in higher caloric food intake as reported in Advances in Nutrition an International Review-Journal.
The review took into account studies from 16 cross-section epidemiologic studies trying to establish a link between short sleeping and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.
These studies found an association between short sleepers and higher total energy intake, higher fat intake, lower fruit, and lower quality diets, irregular eating habits, and consumption of more energy dense foods.
When this is long term it leads to chronic diseases and obesity.
For one, chronic short sleepers are at the mercy of hormonal control.
There are changes in appetite induced by hormones, such as leptin the satiation hormone and ghrelin the hunger hormone, making short sleepers powerless to the hunger pangs.
Another reason may be related to changes observed in the brain of short sleepers, showing more activity in the reward-seeking areas of the brain, and less activity in areas that could evaluate food value.
Related to the reasoning above, sleep deprivation leads to metabolic and endocrine changes that then lead to obesity and metabolic syndrome, causing an alteration in cortisol, ghrelin, leptin, insulin, and sugar control (source). So really, this should be an easy fix.
A simple way to lose weight and prevent metabolic syndrome is as simple as sleeping a solid eight hours at the right time. But you know life has a way of getting in the way. But we must try and sleep enough for the sake of our health.
According to “Sleep: A health Imperative”, a 2012 article published in Sleep Research Society, chronic sleep deficiency is a “growing and an underappreciated determinant of health status and contributes to a number of molecular, immune and neural changes that play a role in diseases development…” as we have already seen.
Also per sleep, A health Imperative, 50-70 million Americans have a chronic sleep disorder, and about 1 in 3 adults sleep less than 7 hours, a number at which physiological and neurobehavioral deficits show and become worse with time.Inadequate or mistimed sleep, the article states has become an epidemic in the era of broad changes in society including shift work, longer work hours, later nightlife, technology and a mindset changes geared towards more and more work have led to growing sleep deficiency problem.
So we must keep in mind the high cost of sleep deprivations and the biological importance of sleep in vitality.
It is really as important as food, oxygen, exercise and all the other necessary things we need to be healthy.
Sleep is not random and cannot be avoided
Sleep cannot really be avoided.
When people do, there is a debt and a price to pay.
Studies have shown that sleep is not random but is a highly organized biological and homeostatic process, needed by nearly all organisms.
And the higher the sleep deficit the stronger the homeostatic pressure to sleep.
This can be dangerous in situations such as driving and operating heavy machinery leading to accidents. Studies show that:
During periods of prolonged sleep deprivation, the brain will overwhelm attempts to maintain wakefulness, and sleep will inevitably occur. Even when an individual is an active and resisting sleep, if sleep debt is substantial, transitions into brief periods of sleep will occur.
These “microsleeps” generally last from 3 to 30 seconds and occur without awareness of the individual, despite clear changes to a sleeping pattern in the EEG.10,11
This homeostatic pressure for sleep which can result in the occurrence of sleep even when life is at risk (e.g., when driving), supporting the fact that sleep is indispensable (source)
Research is clear on that chronic sleep deprivation leads to changes in biological processes which then lead to development and exacerbation of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, and shortened lifespan.
Also to consider, lack of adequate sleep may also aggravate some health conditions such as neuropathic pain.
For people who have neuropathy, a 2012 study in Sleep Research Society found that inadequate sleep and sleep deprivation made neuropathy pain worse. Yet another good reason to optimize sleep.
We are busy people and we sometimes want to use every minute we have, squeezing work, (and sometimes social media), into late hours of the night, sacrificing sleep.
Great adequate sleep is good for emotional health
REM sleep is emotionally therapeutic.
When someone says things will look brighter in the morning, believe them. There is truth in that. Things do seem less terrifying, even if only slightly, in the light of day after a good nights sleep.
That’s also why you say “I will sleep on it.” when you have some big decision to consider or something you are ambivalent about.
The emotional therapy of sleep helps you work on problems so that things that looked so dark the day before won’t be quite so dark the next day.
Sleep and the cleansing processes that happen in sleep offers emotional intelligence so you are able to deal with difficult situations better after you wake up refreshed.
How can you improve your sleep?
The cure is simple. Tweak your daytime actions and bedtime routine for improved sleep.
Follow These Simple Steps to Have Better Sleep Every Night.
Keep up with your internal sleep clock
Your body has a natural sleep-wake cycle that naturally cues you when to sleep and when to wake up. Keeping in sync with this circadian rhythm helps you sleep much better and deeper, allowing for that refreshed feeling that is so energizing.
That’s why you need to be in tune with your circadian rhythm and keep that sleep schedule.
Find out what works for you. Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
This should make it possible to naturally wake up even without needing an alarm clock.
Avoid sleeping in even over the weekend.
Oh, bummer! Right? Trust me. You will start feeling so good, you won’t need a nap or sleeping in.
You need to keep to this schedule every day even over the weekends.
Studies are showing that getting off this schedule even by just a few hours affects your sleep negatively.
Apparently, that circadian rhythm of sleep also is the timing for some hormones such as melatonin, cortisol and even insulin, and others and these affect cells and tissues.
Furthermore, circadian rhythm desynchrony is reported in studies to contribute to adverse health, contributing to many diseases, even cancer. Researchers are now finding out that melatonin, does so much more than help us sleep. Per a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health, insufficient sleep can lead to some cancers.
The study states that the way circadian disruption leads to the development and promotion of malignant tumors is complex and multifactorial. Way beyond the compass of this blog post really.
But there are multilevel endocrine changes that are caused by circadian disruption with melatonin suppression through the light at night, leading to the oncogenic( cancer-causing) targeting of the endocrine-responsive breast in women and prostate in men(source).
Who knew that sleeping enough and at the right time is so important?
The out of sync sleep cycle disrupts much more than sleep. It also leads to dysregulation of the circadian cell cycle and favors uncontrolled cell growth. Hence cancer growth.
Sleep deprivation also leads to suppression of immune cell surveillance, and that may allow the establishment and growth of malignant clone cells according to the same article.
Be careful with the Naps
Keep your naptimes short and timely.
Napping is another problem that may have you counting sheep too long before you finally fall asleep.
Keep these power naps short.
15 to 20, or 30 minutes at best.
Too long naps and you will have trouble sleeping well at night.
I know you’re like “first I can’t sleep in on weekends, and now no nap?”
Yes, I know, but you will feel so much better when you get sufficient sleep when you are actually supposed to be sleeping. Having increased energy and a great mood, you will be a power to reckon with, ready to conquer the world!
And If you must nap, stay away from late afternoon or evening naps, don’t nap too close to your bedtime for better and sound night sleep.
Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon
Research shows that caffeine has a great ability to disrupt sleep long after drinking it. At least up to 6 hours. Caffeine is a stimulant, and when consumed late in the afternoon, can keep you too wired and unable to relax even much later in the night for sleep.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that caffeine consumed six hours before bed in moderate amounts had a significant disruptive effect on sleep.
So the recommendation is to refrain from caffeine at least six hours before your bedtime. And if you suffer from anxiety, caffeine can make that worse too.
Keep your bedroom clean and tidy and comfortable.
The bottom line here is that a bedroom needs to be clean, organized, quiet, cool and dark for optimal sleep. Did you know that simple things such as touch and texture of linens, the scents in the room all can contribute to better sleep or hinder it? Yes, they can.
That gives you permission to go buy new bedding, and it also means you have to really strive for neatness.
A clean organized space is not only pleasing to the eye but also calming to the mind. Neatly organized spaces are soothing and recommended for mental health including depression and anxiety. clutter exhausts your brain and increases stress.
And when you need to relax an organized bedroom will help your mind ease off so you can sleep.
When there is chaos in the room, that makes your brain go in many different directions and so find it difficult to relax enough to fall asleep easily.
So yes, make that bed.
Don’t you love to walk into your bedroom and find your bed all made up with a lovely comforter and piled high with decorative pillows?
I sure do. A study commissioned by the National Sleep Foundation found that bed-makers were 19% more likely to report having a good nights sleep. I know its not 50 % but when it comes to sleep anything that helps I am all for it.
Keeping your home organized can help too. It is hard to relax in a room full of chaos. The mind tends to race and you cant rest.
Invest in a new mattress and bedding; Most mattresses wear out their use after 10 years. I know what you are thinking. Well, that can be expensive. Yes, a good mattress is expensive, but how much is a chiropractor, or back surgery?
So yea, it’s okay to invest in yourself. Besides new clean crisp sheets are so soothing.
I adore the new linens. Yes, as a problem cos I like shopping for such too much.
Keep your bedroom cool too. The ideal sleeping temperature is about Temperature between 60 to 75 degrees is optimal. 75 may be a bit hot for some, but I am cold blooded. Can’t help that.
Keep it as cool as you can stand.
It’s hard to sleep in a hot room or too cold a room. 68 is optimal for many people.
Avoid a noisy sleeping environment.
If this cannot be helped, use earplugs, or use white noise.
There are even some apps for these. I know, you are thinking but I thought we can’t have our cell phones at bedtime, well, for this make sure the light on it is turned way down and put it face down away from the bed as possible.
There other white noise gadgets that you can buy and use. Here is the one you may want to try.
Some white noise machines come equipped with many sounds from nature, so if you like to sleep to the sound of rain or ocean and others this white noise machine is also great for that.
You can also use a fan.
The fun will also keep you cool enough to sleep. I have found this to be very helpful to me.
Optimize your exposure to light
You need to do this so as to help regulate your melatonin production.
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain, and its production is controlled by light exposure.
So you need the right kind of light exposure at the right time.
This is a two-part deal. During the day you want to be exposed to the morning light.
This will keep you alert during the day. More melatonin is produced at night, which makes you sleepy and less during the day when you should be alert.
So you need to optimize your exposure to light.
Go outside as soon as you wake up and have your breakfast outside if possible.
Throw open those blinds.
I just love it when summer light comes pouring in the house and everything is light and airy.
Sit by a well naturally lit window.
Of course, if you work, then you may want to take your breaks outside to get some early sun exposure and if you’re lucky and your office faces a window, open the blinds and enjoy the sunshine.
A well-lit space is a happy space, I feel.
Night time light control.
You want to lessen light exposure at night. This is when you have to reconsider cellphone use and other such screens. Stop using devices that emit blue light at least two hours before your bedtime.
If you must use, dim the light way down.
Avoid using anything that is backlit as some e-readers are. If you must, there are some light altering devices even some glasses such as these blue light blocking glasses that can help.
The blue light emitted by electronic including TV is rather sleeping disruptive. Blue light not only disturbs sleep, but affects the circadian rhythm, and morning alertness.
We all have to be concerned about the worldwide pervasiveness of electronic gadgets and how they impact our health.
Avoid TV 1-2 hours before going to bed.
Raise your hand up if you are one of those people who say “I can’t sleep without my TV on?”
TV watching in the bedrooms is a no-no if you want a good nights sleep.
First, you have those flashes of light that come with some pictures, commercials etcetera.
Then you have some programs that are just a bit too exciting for sleep, and these, plus the crazy brazing flashing varied light exposure reduces your melatonin production and excites your brain.
Best practice: Don’t have a TV in your bedroom. Trust me. Your energy levels and productivity will be better for it.
Ultimately these gadgets in the bedroom affect your mood.
The blue light produced by these screens is generally not good for your mental health as well.
Turn your clocks around. You don’t want that green blue or red light on your alarm clock facing you. Besides, when the alarm clock faces you, you tend to stay up calculating how much sleep you will get, so you worry, and this, in the end, leaves you sleepless.
Keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
Invest in some good blackout curtains. I love blackout curtains. And go a step further and get you some sleeping masks
such as this one that is so soothing to the eyes.
This will help you sleep better and you will wake up so rested.
And yes, likely more beautiful, because beauty sleep is real. We know puffy eyes and black circles are not nice.
Another thing to consider is using a small night light in the bathroom, or the hallways in case you need to wake up to go to the restroom. That way you won’t turn those bedroom lights on and disrupt your melatonin production.
Having to wake up in the middle of the night sucks big time, but for some with small bladders, this cannot be helped, but the effect can be minimized with the use of a night light like the one below.
Use your bedroom for sleep
Avoid doing your work in the bedroom. The brain needs to associate your bedroom with sleep. so making your bedroom your office is not a good idea for sleep
Keep pets out of the bed.
Let Fido sleep in his own bed out of the bedroom.
Pets are such restless sleepers and they will wake you up and disrupt your sleep. Now I know this may be a hard one for some people. If your pet is a sound sleeper and you can’t stand being apart, then well you know your pet better, but most can be disruptive.
Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
I don’t mean to burst your bubble, for you may love a night cup. It may relax you in the beginning.
But it just lies to you! That glass of wine while relaxing initially, will later keep you tossing and turning disrupting your sleep and prevent you from getting into the restorative deep sleep phases.
Alcohol, according to this research prevents you from getting the REM sleep, that is a deep sleep needed to help your brain organize thoughts and memories.
And it is this deep sleep which also helps you with metabolism and weight loss. Just evaluate your sleep next time you have imbibed, and you will find you’re not quite rested, it’s not all hungover you feel. You just had a lot of disruptions in your sleep.
Research is showing that alcohol disrupts sleep by interfering with the production of certain hormones and also It reduces melatonin production while increasing noradrenergic( excitatory hormones such as epinephrine).
And that, keeps you tossing and turning and you may not even be aware you are doing that.
Alcohol also disrupts the production of growth hormone, a hormone that also likely contributes to the circadian rhythm of sleep as well. Furthermore, the reduction in growth hormones can stunt the growth of teenage drinkers.
So one more reason to educate the kids to stay away from alcohol. Perhaps that is the reason why the drinking age is 21 when the brain finally reaches full development.
What’s even worse is that research has found that alcohol increases snoring and makes sleep apnea worse.
Snoring is just not cute, and you don’t want to be the one snoring next to your significant other.
Snoring is a health hazard also, as when you snore you actually have periods that you are not breathing ( you are apneic) you are not getting enough oxygen during these episodes of apnea.
Sleep apnea is a fancy way of saying, hey you stop breathing when you sleep.
This too can lead to an early death.
Don’t smoke a few hours before bed.
It would be better if you didn’t smoke at all, and I know you know you should quit.
So many reasons why smoking is bad for you.
You have heard them all, I know.
Well, here is one more. Nicotine is a stimulant and will keep you wired if you smoke too close to bedtime.
Another good reason for you to really consider quitting. And you will smell better too. I know, just saying. I have to try, everyone likes to smell nice, don’t they?
Don’t eat a big meal close to bedtime
Eating heavy meals close to bedtime can cause indigestion and discomfort when you are trying to sleep.
Those of us who have been pregnant know how uncomfortable that nine-month belly feels like when you try to lay down.
It’s sort of the same plus indigestion. The stomach just doesn’t do well with digestion when you are sleeping.
Furthermore heavy meals are just not good for general health and wellness as they can cause a cascade of bad health outcomes.
But if you must eat that kind of heavy meal, eat at least two hours before bed.
Also in the same vein, avoid spicy, or fatty foods as these can cause acid reflux and indigestion for some people. Another really bad situation, as you can’t really sleep with heartburn flares.
Don’t go to bed hungry
If you ate earlier in the evening and come bedtime you feel hungry, then eat a small snack. Some warm milk or yogurt is good. You can mix it up with some whole grain type carbohydrate to up serotonin production.
Establish a sleeping routine
This will help you to wind down and cue your brain to sleep
Sleeping routine is a great way to practice self-care and improve sleep.
This is by far my favorite time of the day.
You need some time dedicated to preparation for sleep with some relaxing activities.
These winding down activities will ensure a very restful night and a great day later
Here are a few things you can do to enhance your sleep quality.
Take a relaxing bath for a good nights sleep
This is where you can kick things up a notch and have a relaxing lavender infused bath with lavender oil, or use Epsom salts with lavender such as these. I love Epsom salt, and with lavender, it is a match made in sleep heaven.
These salts not only detoxify the body but also relax you.
Magnesium is an amazing mineral that does so much for the body and can be taken through your skin through a relaxing bath. Take a peek at the many ways magnesium can improve your health.
A bath is a good way to prepare for bed because it causes the body temperature to rise then fall inducing blissful sleep.
Then just before you get in that comfy bed, elevate the experience with this lavender pillow and room spray. Talk of bliss as you easily drift off to dreamland.
Lavender essential oil pillow and room spray
Read a book, a real book made of paper
Find a good book to read, but not too good that you can’t keep it down.
Some good readers have been known to stay up into the morning hours because they have to find out what happens next in the story.
Not Good for sleep at all.
Listen to some soothing calming music.
Compile a favorite playlist for such songs and plug in and prepare for your very own lullaby.
Exercise is good for overall health, everyone knows that. What’s better is that when you exercise, you also get to reap the benefits of good sleep as well.
You fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. This study found that exercise helped people with insomnia fall asleep faster. It really sucks to toss and turn in bed when you try to sleep.
Exercise, in another study, was found to reduce the time it took to fall asleep and even helped subjects sleep 41 minutes longer.
That nearly an hour longer than usual. That good news because I know I am always counting how many hours I am going to sleep when I sleep at certain times. Other studies found that exercise improved sleep and quality of life, decreasing depressive moods, and daytime sleepiness.
Also, a study published in Sleep Medicine found that children who participated in moderate to intense exercise slept better and had more slow wave sleep.
That is the good deep and restorative sleep that you want to aim for.
However, while exercise is good, don’t exercise too late as this stimulates cortisol.
Exercise is excitatory and will lead to the production of hormones such as epinephrine. Exercise raises your metabolism, and your body temperature goes up.
Remember, your body temperature goes down when preparing to sleep. So if you exercise too close to bedtime, it will take you longer for your body to cool down and ready for sleep. So you don’t want to be all wired up and hot when you should be relaxing and trying to go to sleep.
So keep your exercise routine at least three to four hours before bedtime. Then you sleep better and will have more energy to go exercising again in the morning. And its a win-win for you and sleep.
Tame the mental whirlwind and chaos for better sleep:
If your worrying thoughts
and anxiety won’t stop and your mind cant quiet down, then you need to find strategies to help your mind calm down
You definitely don’t want to be tossing and turning with worrying thoughts.
Stress, from these, can also cause cortisol elevation and that will keep you up even longer.
Journaling can help you sleep.
Just write down your thoughts and feelings and then set the journal aside.
This is like a physical setting those troublesome thoughts aside.
Writing in a journal those thoughts that are worrisome can restore your calm. Or simply write how you feel and find clarity and rest.
Related: Journal prompts for mental self-love and mental health
When you journal you feel that to some extent you have dealt with it and taken it out of your mind.
It’s like talking to a friend, it’s cathartic.
And to help in this process, a good journal is essential. This one is absolutely amazing.
Avoid Negative self-talk
This can pester you just when you are trying to sleep keeping you awake worrying.
Instead, write these thoughts down, and next to each, write an affirmation with a positive outcome to counter those negative thoughts.
To avoid stressing over events or things that need doing while you are laying in bed, get organized, make lists and prioritize tasks.
A calendar of events and to do dates prioritized can be helpful. Invest in a good planner.
I love and swear by my planner. This is the one I use. This way you know exactly what you need to do and when.
It is in the book, it will get done. And your mind can rest.
If you have developed good habits, then you know you got your to-dos in order, so chill and go to sleep.
Delegate as much as possible so your to-do list isn’t too overwhelming. You don’t have to be a super mama. Let your kids help with chores, hire outside help to assist in your business. Slim down that to do list and you will not have too much on your mind when trying to sleep.
Practice relaxation techniques for great sleep
Deep breathing can help ease your mind enough to fall asleep and sleep well. Close your eyes and take deep relaxing breaths, feel your abdominal muscles relaxing.
Use the progressive relaxation technique. Relax one part of the body beginning with your toes, and visualize them relaxing, while you take deep relaxing breaths. work your way up relaxing one body part at a time while you take some deep cleansing breaths.
Another way to combat ceaseless thoughts and especially if you suffer from insomnia is to find a supplement that can help you calm down enough to sleep. I take Valerian root capsules and I have found them very helpful. I no longer toss and turn. These are the ones I take.
Avoid drinking large amounts of liquids before bed.
Now I know frequency can be a problem when it comes to a good nights rest. But drinking too much liquid before bed can have a similar effect. No one wants to get up to void many times at night. This disturbs sleep quality and quantity. Avoid drinking much 1-2 hours before bedtime.
But do it early enough before bed. I know I said not to drink too much before bed.
So balance and timing are key here. Make sure you’re well hydrated through the day. If you can, don’t drink too close to your bedtime.
However, you don’t want to wake up cos you are thirsty.
But also you don’t want to have to wake up to go the bathroom cos you drank too much. Its all in the balance. So know what works for you.
So tell me in the comments below, how do you go about getting enough sleep. Do you get enough sleep?
And as always, sharing is caring.
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