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Article posted: 3/18/2013 6:00 AM

Your health: Don't skimp on sleep

Not getting enough sleep at night can lead to a host of health problems.

Not getting enough sleep at night can lead to a host of health problems.

 
Follow these tips to avoid an achy neck.

Follow these tips to avoid an achy neck.

 
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It's no secret that chronic sleep deprivation can play a huge role in declining health. But insomniacs are not the only victims of the consequences of skimping on sleep, says The Washington Post.

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According to the March issue of Experience Life magazine, even a small deficit -- as little as an hour a night -- can lead to some seriously unpleasant conditions, including floppy eyelids, sexual dysfunction and loss of hair, hearing and even vision. "Why?" asks the magazine. "Because when we don't get enough sleep, our immune systems go into overdrive, which causes systemic inflammation and turns on dangerous genetic switches."

For example, it says, if someone is genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer's disease at age 70, "a sleep disturbance could bring it on at an earlier age, say 55." Other risks: headaches, impaired alertness, high blood pressure, increased stress levels, muscle weakness and weight gain.

"People devalue sleep and are completely unaware of what happens to them when they have a deficit," sleep researcher James Maas tells the magazine. "As a society, we are so habituated to low levels of sleep that most of us don't know what it feels like to be fully alert and awake."

Pain in the neck

Everyday life isn't kind to the neck. You may be all too familiar with that crick you get when you cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear, or the strain you feel after working at your computer.

Neck pain rarely starts overnight. It usually evolves over time. And it may be spurred by arthritis or degenerative disk disease and accentuated by poor posture, declining muscle strength, stress and even a lack of sleep, says Dr. Zacharia Isaac, director of interventional physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.

The following tips can help you take care of your neck, according to Harvard Medical School:

• Don't stay in one position for too long.

• Make some ergonomic adjustments. Position your computer monitor at eye level so you can see it easily. Use the hands-free function on your phone or wear a headset.

• Don't use too many pillows.

• Know your limits. Before you move a big armoire across the room, consider what it might do to your neck and back, and ask for help.

• Get a good night's sleep.

Generally, neck pain is nothing to worry about. But if it's occurring with other, more serious symptoms, such as radiating pain, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, make sure to see your doctor.

"Other key things that might make one more concerned are having a fever or weight loss associated with your neck pain, or severe pain. You should let your doctor know about these symptoms," Isaac says.

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