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Reducing America’s sleep deficit

July 1, 1993

When the line at Starbucks is longer than the line at the gym, it may be a sign consumers are not starting their days recharged and refreshed from a good night’s sleep. Pending deadlines, murky financial forecasts, world events, family matters, and increasing daily demands keep us awake, wondering when we will “catch up” on all the sleep we miss each night. The end result is increased stress among Americans who are already exhausted and sleep deprived.

According to the second annual Better Sleep Council Stress Survey, 66 percent of Americans are losing sleep due to stress, up from 51 percent last year. This year’s survey also found that 17 percent of Americans are losing sleep at least three nights a week, with most (49 percent) losing sleep a few nights a month. Furthermore, experts agree that loss of sleep can impact performance.

Dr. Louis Libby, pulmonologist and medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Providence Portland Medical Center, confirms that losing sleep due to stress three or four days in a row will impact an individual’s performance. And the University of Pennsylvania found that individuals who sleep only four to six hours a night are as sleep deprived as those who have gone three full days without sleep.

As a society, are we creating a sleep deficit that we will never be able to pay off? It is important that individuals begin evaluating their sleep patterns and make changes to improve their quality of sleep. As part of Better Sleep Month, The Better Sleep Council has developed a short list of ways consumers can take control, improve their quality of sleep, and ultimately reduce the level of stress in their lives.

Top five ways to control your sleep environment:

1. Determine your sleep requirement—Determining the amount of sleep you need each night to be fully alert the next day is a big step toward sleep environment control. You should try to get at least your minimum sleep requirement each night, if not more. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

2. Reduce noise—Keeping your bedroom noise level at a minimum creates an ideal, relaxed sleep environment. Consider removing your television and/or radio from the bedroom.

3. Create a comfortable bed—Evaluating your mattress is important—is it giving you the support and comfort you need to get a good night’s sleep?

4. Engage in pre-bedtime relaxation—Engaging in a relaxing, non-alerting activity at bedtime such as reading or listening to music will help you sleep better. Avoid activities that are mentally and physically stimulating that might keep you awake.

5. Develop a sleep ritual—Following the same routine each night just before bed signals your body to settle down for the night. Set a regular schedule that takes you from dusk to dawn.

Consider applying these tips to your daily routine. After all, starting every day with a good night’s sleep is among the best investments you can make in improving your quality of life.

For more information, visit www.bettersleep.org or call (888) 31-SLEEP.

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