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A man lying on the sofa taking a napFor something so crucial to your quality of life as your health, there are certain shocking health facts that can make it difficult to know just what to do to stay healthy.

Such as…

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Nap or stay awake?

You had to work late for a meeting. Now it’s 4am, and you have to be at work at 7am. Should you try to get a couple hours of sleep, or is it better to just stay up and deal?

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According to experts, even though you may want to take that nap, it may not be the best thing for you, says Michael A. Grandner, PhD, research associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

“If you get less than 4 hours, there’s a good chance that you’ll wake up in slow-wave sleep, which can leave you disoriented, irrational and extremely irritable,” Grandner says.

So, what should you do? Drink some coffee and keep busy until your regular bedtime.

Which is 

worse: sitting for too long or smoking?

Just about everyone knows that both sitting down for too long and smoking are both pretty bad for your health. But which one is worse?

A group of Australian researchers recently tried to find out by analyzing data from a lifestyle survey with 11,247 participants over the age of 25. The result? The team concluded that every daily hour of sitting while watching TV was associated with an 8 percent higher risk of death.

“Watching one hour of TV above age 25 may be about as lethal as smoking one cigarette,” says J. Lennert Veerman, PhD, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland, who led the study.

Yes, smoking causes many cancers–lung, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix–as well as acute myeloid leukemia. But, prolonged sitting has been associated with higher risks of heart disease, diabetes and obesity-related illness.

So, what should you do? Or rather, not do?  ”While smoking rates are going down, almost everyone watches quite a bit of TV,” says Veerman. He recommends limiting couch time to two hours per day or night.

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Does coffee or alcohol disturb your ability to sleep more?

Both that cup of coffee and that glass of wine can prevent you from sleeping well, says Allison T. Siebern, PhD, CBSM, clinical assistant professor and the associate director of the Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Caffeine makes your body think that it’s not tired, Siebern explains. But as soon as it wears off, you crash. End of story. But in the case of alcohol, while you may get a little sleepy at first, and even fall asleep, you may easily start snoring, having nightmares, breaking out into nightsweats, or getting headaches.

So, what should you do? Have a cup of coffee if you need to stay alert, drink a glass of wine for happy hour with friends. Avoid both if you need to wake up early the next morning.

Should you exercise on a full stomach or an empty one?

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According to Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, a noted nutritionist:

“You’ll probably be so hungry later that you’ll eat even more,” she says, adding that she sees this over and over with her clients.

So, what should you do? Think of your pre-workout snack as fuel. Skolnik says research supports the idea that having something in your system will help you work out harder, which will then help you burn even more calories. Overeating will make for an uncomfortable workout, but not eating at all will hurt your workout, your metabolism and your overall health.

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