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One of the comments I frequently hear from patients is "I don't need a lot of sleep." A corollary of this is the oft-repeated phrase "I don't have enough time to sleep." As gently as I can, I break the news that adequate, regenerative rest is a critical foundation of health as well as a source of abundant energy.

Inadequate sleep is now associated with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, among other chronic diseases. Recent investigations have helped prove that eight hours a night is optimum for cellular rejuvenation, and yet, according to one study, 71 percent of Americans get less than that—and are sleep deprived. Much of our sleep debt has been run up by choice—people just don't want to turn out the lights. But insomnia is also on the rise. One study put the national price tag of treating it at $14 billion.

Most people probably don't have time to catch up on lost sleep by napping in the middle of the day (God bless the cultures that encourage a siesta), but you can make adjustments in your habits to improve the quantity and quality of regenerative rest at night.

I'll share some very simple and practical—nonpharmaceutical—ways to improve your sleep. Before you try them, consider talking to your doctor if you're averaging less than seven hours a night or always feel tired. Snoring, stress, heartburn, and chronic pain can all disrupt your rest and may be symptoms of serious health issues.

How to get a good night's sleep