Thursday, April 21, 2011

Taxes to a Royal Wedding the US National Sleep Debt

In 2007 the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine stated that people overestimate the amount of sleep they get as the US on average only acquires six hours each night. People are genuinely unaware they are getting too little sleep. Our society sleeps less which is insufficient for mental and physical health. Over time we accumulate a sleep debt that affects daily functions and eventually increases the risk for heart disease, obesity, type II diabetes, metabolic conditions and depression. Lifestyle changes to maximize the quality and quantity of sleep require refraining from heavy/spicy meals, avoiding activity that will increase body temperature, limiting the amount of caffeine and shutting down electronics too close to retiring. Mentally stress and or excitement can cause people to not fall asleep easy as they lay in bed tossing and turning about the upcoming events.

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I am sure in this past week some adults stressed about paying their federal/state annual taxes, the rising cost of gasoline and what the heck the government will do about the national debt. This weekend will surely keep some children from falling asleep wondering what the Easter Bunny will bring. Not to mention Kate’s and William’s upcoming royal wedding that will air at 3am April 29th live, will have many Americans celebrating and not sleeping, trying to work on Friday, thinking they will sleep in or take a nap on the weekend to make up for the lost zzzzs.

Hopefully many of them are not air traffic controllers! The FAA has announced that they plan on giving the controllers an hour rest between shifts in attempt to keep them alert during work hours after another controller was caught sleeping on the job in Miami. Although this may sound good to the general public and we are grateful that they are concerned for our safety, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reported many employers will not pay for controllers to take naps. It is clear that politics remains more important than public safety. Why can’t air traffic controller, especially those working the midnight shifts, get the same rest periods as fire fighters and trauma physicians do? According to the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital at University of Pennsylvania, people who sleep less than eight hours suffer a lapse in concentration and decline in cognitive ability.

People need to recognize that adequate sleep is just as important for health as diet and exercise are. How can you make up for lack of sleep? The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night's Sleep (Harvard Medical School Guides)Health, Mind & Body Books), Dr. Epstein advises:

Settle short-term debt. If you missed 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add three to four extra sleep hours on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have repaid the debt fully.

Address a long-term debt. If you’ve shorted yourself on sleep for decades, you won’t be required to put in a Rip Van Winkle–like effort to repay the hours of missed slumber. Nonetheless, it could take a few weeks to recoup your losses. Plan a vacation with a light schedule and few obligations — not a whirlwind tour of the museums of Europe or a daughter’s wedding. Then, turn off the alarm clock and just sleep every night until you awake naturally. At the beginning, you may be sleeping 12 hours or more a night; by the end, you’ll be getting about the amount you regularly need to awake refreshed.

Avoid backsliding into a new debt cycle. Once you’ve determined how much sleep you really need, factor it into your daily schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day — at the very least, on weekdays. If need be, use weekends to make up for lost sleep. And don’t forget to follow the lifestyle changes mentioned above along with the following tips for good sleep habits:

1. Create a sleep sanctuary. Reserve it for sleep, intimacy, and other restful activities, like pleasure reading and meditation. Keep it on the cool side, dark and quiet.

2. Nap only if necessary. Night owls and shift workers are at the greatest risk for sleep debt. Napping an hour or two at the peak of sleepiness in the afternoon can help to supplement hours missed at night. But naps can also interfere with your ability to sleep at night and throw your sleep schedule into disarray. It is best to sleep before 4pm and for 90 minutes only.

3. If you’re able to get enough sleep but don’t feel refreshed in the morning, discuss the problem with your physician. Many common medical conditions, from depression to sleep apnea (the condition in which breathing pauses during sleep), could be responsible. If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to get enough sleep but don’t have an underlying medical problem, talk to your doctor as he/she may recommend a sleep specialist.

If you are one of the royal crazed Americans that will get up in the wee hours of the morning to watch Katherine and William walk down the aisle, remember these ways to relieve your sleep debt, cause the US is not taking that Friday off as a national holiday like the UK. I know many Americans, like me, will sleep as usual and watch the wedding later Friday evening. It is not like I am going to Disney or anything! The content provided in Taxes to a Royal Wedding the US National Sleep Debt is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.
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