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Are you getting enough sleep? (3/7/11)

March 7, 2011

The CDC Measures American Sleeplessness

Americans are progressively sleepless.  The latest survey reported Friday by the Centers for Disease Control, found 35.3% of 75,000  adults were sleeping less than 7 hours a night.

Some people don’t need much sleep.  Yet most of us perform better with at least 7-8 hours of sleep.  Too little sleep sets us up for greater weight gain; more heart attacks and strokes; more coronary artery disease; more depression; less learning and memory.

The CDC reported many other interesting results:

37.9% of people fell asleep involuntarily at least once in the last month (those are sleep episodes they know about – many of have microsleeps and still think we’ re awake –  see “Who’s Flying Your Plane?” the February 7th note for  therestdoctor.com).

4.7% fell asleep driving  the last month – a number which jumps to 7.2% for those 25-34 (we won’t consider what texting and cell phone use do to safe driving)

48% snore during sleep

29.3% said their normal concentration was lousy – in the group that slept less than 7 hours a night

10.5% of adults said they were too sleep deprived to do their finances properly

And this study did not include the national champions of sleep deprivation – our nation’s kids, who need more than 9 hours a night on average to function, and often get 7 hours or less – leading to a population that will be thicker both in waistline and probably around the head.

Why Aren’t We Sleeping Enough?

There are now too many reasons Americans don’t sleep.  Here are a few:

1. The economy. Many folks are working two to three jobs and working lots of overtime.

2. Kids.  Trying to move kids to soccer practice and playdates, teach them what they’re not learning at school, while working longer hours makes getting enough sleep difficult.

3. Elderly parents. Assisted living and nursing homes, even when absolutely necessary, are now beyond the means of many, probably the majority of Americans.  And many elderly need help in the middle of the night.

4. The Internet. A British survey by Travelodge found 65% of British adults checking their emails before they went to sleep, with 27% taking emails from the boss during the night.  Kids now often text throughout the night.

5. Insufficient physical activity. Fitter people sleep better; when you’re working all the time, people don’t fit in active rest to their schedules.

6. The national obesity epidemic. Sleep less, weigh more.  As people sleep less than 7 hours, particularly 6 hours a night, their normal food metabolism goes out of whack and they gain weight.

The converse, sadly, is also true. Obese people sleep poorly. People who weigh produce  more inflammatory cytokines.  They wake up more and with increasing weight snore more and develop more sleep apneas – making for a vicious cycle all round.

Americans already lead in the world in overall fatness as measured by BMI (body mass index.)  Less sleep means a bigger BMI – which also means less sleep.

7. Lights of electronic media. Light is a drug.  Light changes immunity, vitamin D, mood, and resets biological clocks.

Lots of electronic devices, from phones to tablets to televisions, pump out a lot of light.  Evening light resets body clocks to later hours.  Light in the night will also interrupt melatonin production, which may make getting back to sleep harder.

What You Can Do

1. First, determine how much sleep you really need. There are algorithms in “The Power of Rest” you can follow, but as a rule of thumb, see how much sleep you’re getting on vacation, especially after the first few days, when you can really take the time to rest.

2. Get as fit as you can. An easy rhythm to the day is going FAR – Food, Activity, Rest.  Using FAR can help with weight, waistline, mood, and productivity.

3. Make your bed environment comfortable, cool, dark and quiet as you can.

4. Turn off your electronic devices at least an hour before you go to sleep.

5. Rest before sleep. Take an hour to slow down – floss your teeth, brush your teeth, put out your clothes for the next day, and pick up a book that will calm you and take you far away (many different kinds of book can work, from historical fiction to travel to poetry.)

6. Pre-dream. Make dreaming fun by writing down, in three or four sentences, the kinds of dreams you want, and visualizing them briefly during the day.

7. Enjoy the idea of rest. Your body rebuilds, quickly and powerfully, every night.  Sleep is a large part of that, reworking and rewiring body and brain.

There’s nothing like waking up refreshed, using your newly rebuilt brain and body to enjoy the new day.

Rest is like food. You should try to enjoy both every day of your life.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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