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CDC study finds Americans aren't getting enough sleep


May 22, 2013

SPRINGFIELD – Are you happy with the sleep you are getting each night?

If you listen to what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to tell you, your answer would be "probably not."

Nearly 30 percent of adults say their sleep isn't optimal, reporting they are getting less than six hours of sleep at night – that's according to a recent sleep study released in March by the CDC. The results of the survey are enough for the government agency to declare "insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic" that is linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters and a host of other occupational errors.

"Just as eating right and getting enough exercise is recommended by doctors, getting a good night's sleep is an equally important prescription when it comes to maintaining your health," Dr. Karin Johnson, a sleep specialist in the Neurology Division at Baystate Medical Center, said.

"You and your body need a good night's sleep to gain energy for the day, which is essential for cognition, mood and overall health," she added.

According to a recent Better Sleep Council survey spurred by the March declaration by the CDC, half of American adults admit they are sleep deprived. What's even more surprising is even though they know a few simple actions can lead to a more restful night's sleep, they aren't taking daily precautions to get a better night's sleep.

Johnson says most people with sleep deprivation are not actually suffering from a sleep disorder that she and other doctors in Baystate's Sleep Clinic treat, such as sleep apnea, insomnia or narcolepsy.

"For many people, it is just a matter of prioritizing sleep over other activities. These are people who would rather stay up and watch the Red Sox on television during extra innings than going to bed at 10:30 p.m. It's also those who work late and may not get home until around 7 p.m., and who would rather spend more time with their family than going to bed early. But, you will be surprised to know that the biggest correlation between work and sleep is not how long you work, but the length of your commute each day. While they need to get up earlier to get to work on time, they are not compensating by going to bed earlier," Johnson said.

So, what's a person to do? There's no magic answer, according to Johnson.

"Make sure you are getting enough sleep every night and not just catching up on weekends. While catch-up sleep is better than nothing, it cannot make up for the effects of sleep loss from the days that were already missed," Johnson said.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns 0 to 2 months should be getting 12-18 hours of sleep, infants 3 to 11 months need 14 to 15 hours, toddlers 1 to 3 years should get 12 to 14 hours, preschoolers 3 to 5 years need 11-13 hours, school-age children 5 to 10 years require 10 to 11 hours, teens 10 to 7 need 8.5 to 9.25 hours, while adults can survive with 7 to 9 hours of good ZZZs.

Baystate Medical Center's Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Center and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine offer the following additional tips on how to get a good night's sleep:

• Avoid nicotine, alcohol, food or drinks that contain caffeine, and any medicine that has a stimulant prior to bedtime.

• Follow a consistent bedtime routine.

• Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.

• Avoid any rigorous exercise within two hours of your bedtime.

• Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.

• Don't watch the clock at night, but use an alarm to help wake you up.

• Get up at the same time every morning.

Also, with daylight saving time now in full swing and the mornings getting brighter with the birds chirping earlier than usual, it doesn't necessarily mean waking up earlier is bad for you, Johnson said.

"For most people, it does not cause a major sleep loss. For the minor amount of sleep lost, the power that the light has on us, combined with the good weather, actually makes most of us feel better," Johnson said.

For more information about the Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Center at Baystate, call 794-5600.



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