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The importance of SLEEP
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Let’s admit it — we all dread the week that just passed. The “springing forward” is always harder than the “falling back.” Regardless of the promise of more daylight and spring being right around the corner, Daylight Savings Time is like a mild case of jet lag — which is why my 3-, almost 4-year-old is not going to sleep until after 9 p.m. It usually takes my family at least a week to adjust and we are all a little cranky about it.

But it’s because, like most, we don’t value our sleep until it is not there.

Sleep is a requirement for human existence. Much like food and water, we cannot live without sleep. It is one of those things we take for granted until it is not there. Whether you are a new parent, a stressed out student, an overworked employee, sick or caring for someone who is, or “just awake,” once sleep becomes elusive, it can remain elusive and we are reminded of just how important sleep is.

Sleep Awareness Week was earlier this month, March 2-8, 2015. Sleep Awareness Week is an annual public education and awareness campaign to promote the importance of sleep spearheaded by the National Sleep Foundation (yes, there is really such an organization and, yes, I do kind of wish I could work for them).

The National Sleep Foundation has been investigating many sleep topics for almost 20 years. A recent “Sleep in America” poll looked at sleep in the modern family. Did you know:

• Adult Americans report sleeping an average of 7 hours and 36 minutes a night.

• On workdays, the average bedtime was 10:55 p.m. and average wake time was 6:38 a.m.

• Average sleep time was 40 minutes longer on non-work and non-school days.

• Sleep duration did not differ between men and women.

• Only 18% of individuals would choose to sleep if they had an extra hour in the day.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children ages 6 to 10 get 10 to 11 hours, children ages 11 and older get 8.5 to 9.5 hours, and adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. How does your family measure up?

We tend to think that a good night’s sleep is essential to health, development, and performance in school for children. But do we think about how that translates to adults? Sleep is essential to adult health, continued mental development, and performance at our jobs. We took naps as children (and made our own children nap) but, as adults, we seem to have forgotten the wisdom behind “getting your sleep.”

One of the recent findings from a sleep poll is that Americans report very active technology use in the hour before trying to sleep. In fact, 95 percent of us use some type of electronics like a television, computer, video game or cell phone within the hour before bed. Not only do these electronics keep us from going to sleep, they are often a disturbance in our sleep (the cell phone may ring, beep, or buzz and awaken someone who is already asleep) and our sleep patterns. Reading a book (an actual book, one with pages) or listening to music relaxes our brain prior to sleeping. On the other hand, light from technology actually stimulates the brain in ways that can make sleep less beneficial for the rest of our body. (Note to self: do not wait until the late evening to write next week’s article.)
Sleep is a key indicator of overall health. This year’s “Sleep in America” poll focuses on the connection between pain and sleep. Not shocking, we get less sleep when we have pain — 42 minutes less with chronic pain and 14 minutes less for those who have suffered from acute pain in the past week. According to the National Sleep Foundation, for many people who are close to getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep, getting just 15 to 30 minutes more sleep a night could make a big difference in how you feel. The new National Sleep Foundation gives you more information on sleep health.

Perhaps this Daylight’s Savings Time, we will (re)gain a healthy perspective on the importance of sleep, even with the loss of an hour of sleep last weekend and a week’s worth of adjusting to the new time.
Here’s to your Zzzzzzzzzzz’s.

Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.