About 70 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder, but there is hope.
It’s no coincidence that this year’s Sleep Awareness Week runs March 14-20, right at the kickoff of Daylight Saving’s Time (DST), which this year is Sunday, March 14. As we spring ahead to longer days and lighter evenings, many people struggle with getting adequate slumber to bemoan the loss of that one precious hour.
It may sound silly, but that one hour can have a long-lasting effect. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently summarized studies regarding the sleep health effects of DST and found that:
- Moving into or out of DST has adverse effects on sleep/wake patterns that last about 5-7 days; and
- The effects of changing to DST are probably most notable for those who enter the change with insufficient sleep.
In America, 70% of adults report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night. Whether because of medical disorders, work schedules, or a 24/7 lifestyle, there is a pervasive restlessness and unfortunately, many people today still measure their productivity by how little sleep they get.
The claim “I only got five hours of sleep last night” has almost become a measure of an individual’s dedication to their profession. However, the cost in health, absenteeism, and safety is creating a national crisis. A Harvard study found that insomnia leads to the loss of 11.3 days’ worth, or $2,280, in productivity per person every year. Nationally, that adds up to an estimated loss of over $63 billion.
The lack of adequate, restful sleep can impact a person’s ability to form memories, think and react quickly, and solve relationship problems. It can also impact blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and one’s overall health. And driving while sleep-deprived can be as dangerous as driving under the influence!
So how can you improve your sleep habits?
- The first thing most sleep specialists recommend is following the same sleep schedule, even on weekends. This allows the body to find its rhythm.
- Pre-bedtime rituals can also be helpful, like darkening the environment for an hour or two before going to bed, or reading, or bathing before bedtime.
- A period of exercise during the day, although not too close to bedtime, can also be helpful.
- Creating the right sleep environment is also important. A comfortable bed in a soothing environment, with no light or noise, is helpful for most people. Avoiding a heavy meal in the evening, and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol late in the day can also be beneficial.
- And finally, there is probably nothing worse than lying in bed and not being able to fall asleep. Should that happen, get up for a short period of time and do something relaxing until you are tired enough to fall asleep.
The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be overestimated. If the lack of adequate, restful sleep is disturbing you, speak with your physician or a sleep specialist. Your physical and emotional health may very well depend on it.