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6. Sleep Au Naturel

Despite the human desire to want to snuggle under blankets, the natural tendency of the body is to cool off as we sleep, which is a good thing. Heavy PJs can disrupt that, not to mention wake us up when they get twisted and turned around our limbs. According to Lisa Shives, a doctor who serves on the National Sleep Foundation's board of directors, sleeping nude is a healthy luxury for empty nesters. (For in-the-buff sleepers who have housemates or kids at still at home, a bedroom door lock is a simple solution and wise investment.)

Have sweet dreams. — Age Fotostock

7. Sleep Tight

Getting a sound sleep decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol that regulates the metabolism of sugar, protein, fat, minerals and water. Poor sleep can raise your metabolism, making you feel hungry and deprived, liable to scarf up the kind of foods that lead to belly fat. Long- and short-term, sleep debt slows you down mentally to a dangerous degree. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist in Virginia, who blogs and writes under the name The Sleep Doctor, warns Americans not to brag about "getting by" on little sleep. A lost night, or a week of four hours of sleep, can give individuals the same reaction time as drunks. But we're accustomed to forfeiting sleep so we live with it, accepting declining health in the process. Breus advises tightly wound adults to make sleep a clean ritual, turning off the TV and the computer an hour earlier if that's what it takes to catch those too-precious Z's.

Jacquelyn Mitchard is a bestselling author (The Deep End of the Ocean, among other titles) and longtime journalist. Mitchard also is the editor of Merit Press, an imprint that publishes realistic young adult fiction. She lives in Cape Cod, Mass., with her family.

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