Health & Fitness

Improve your odds for a good night's sleep

After a night of tossing and turning, the next day is exhausting — and seemingly endless. Sleep specialists say you can feel a bit better, and improve your odds of a good sleep the next night, with these steps:

* Don't hit the caffeine hard. In fact, cut off all caffeine after 2 p.m. "Caffeine may increase irritability, make falling asleep at night difficult or cause frequent waking during the night," says Martha Boulos, a neurologist at the Sleep Disorders Center at Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton, Va.

* Be careful about driving. Lack of sleep affects reaction time and focusing ability. If you're really dragging, try to get a ride.

* Drink plenty of water. Dehydration makes you even sleepier. Just go easy in the evening to prevent nighttime urination.

* Eat small, healthy meals. That way, your body won't have to put much energy into digestion. Vegetables and fruits are great for keeping you well hydrated.

* Be smart about naps. If you really need some shut-eye, limit naps to 20 or 30 minutes and don't snooze after 4 p.m. Alternatives to napping: get some exercise, listen to fast-paced music, splash cold water on your face or socialize with friends.

* Do something new. A change in routine — starting a project, for example, or trying a different exercise class — can help you stay alert.

* Stay cool. Turn down the heat, keep a window open and dress lightly. Warmer temperatures — think hot baths — make you drowsier.

* Rewind at night. Take a hot bath , listen to soothing music or read. If sleep troubles continue for a week or two, talk to your doctor.

—Newport News Daily Press

Five-star hospitals save more lives

Patients who go to hospitals that earned a 5-star rating by HealthGrades have a 72 percent chance of a better outcome than if they go to a 1-star hospital, according to a recent study.

HealthGrades, a company that ranks hospitals, compared their ranking with patient Medicare outcomes data on 26 different procedures and diagnoses.

The study found that if the nation's 5,000 hospitals had all the performed at the level of 5-star rated hospitals over the three years studied, 232,442 Medicare lives could potentially have been saved.

To learn more and compare local hospitals, go to

—Columbus Dispatch