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Need to be the best you can be? Get more sleep!

A GOOD NIGHT'S REST CAN GO A LONG WAY in recharging those batteries and getting you ready for another hard day's work. But for millions of Americans, sleep is a dream that often seems out of reach. A 2002 study by the National Sleep Foundation (NSE) found that 74 percent of American adults experience problems sleeping a few nights a week or more; 39 percent get less than seven hours of sleep on weeknights; and sleep deprivation affects the daily activities of 37 percent of respondents. Educators are prime candidates for sleep deprivation because of the stress that is an intrinsic part of education today--not the least being a growing mountain of paperwork that keeps us working longer hours.

But sleep deprivation isn't something that should be taken lightly. Besides making you cranky, a sleep deficit can make you susceptible to a host of health problems, according to researchers, ranging from depression to diabetes to heart disease. In the workplace, sleep deprivation costs employers an estimated $18 billion in lost productivity, according to a 1997 NSF study. (The 2002 NSF poll found that 80 percent of American adults believe that not getting enough seep can negatively impact performance at work.) Most devastating, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately 100,000 crashes occur each year due to fatigue, and more than 1,500 people die in those accidents.

How Much Sleep is Enough?

Although sleep experts recommend an average of seven to nine hours of sleep per night, they also suggest that some people may need more sleep than others--some, for instance, may find that they function at their optimum on 10 hours, while some may only need six.

What Can You Do?

If you are sleepless on a regular basis you may have a sleep disorder (or you may need to make some lifestyle changes to promote sleep). Obviously, if you think you have a sleep disorder, you should see your doctor. The National Institute of Health says, "Talk to your doctor if you feel tired or very sleepy while at work or school most days of the week. You also may want to talk to your doctor if you often have trouble falling or staying asleep, or if you wake up too early and aren't able to get back to sleep." But if you think you just need to make some lifestyle changes to promote sleep, here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic.

1. Stick to a sleep and rise schedule. Going to bed and getting up at about the same time every day helps reinforce your body's sleep-wake cycle.

2. Eat and drink moderately before bedtime. Limiting what you drink before bedtime can help prevent you from waking up repeatedly during the night.

3. The use of nicotine, caffeine and alcohol in the evening can keep you awake. The Mayo Clinic says that smokers often experience withdrawal symptoms at night; so keep smoking at bay for eight hours before you plan to sleep. While your body doesn't store caffeine, it takes many hours to eliminate the stimulant and its effects from your system. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but research shows that it disrupts sleep.

4. Don't forget to exercise. Physical activity can aid restful sleep. But note that exercising right before bed may make it harder to fall asleep.

5. Create a bedroom environment that's conducive to sleep. A cool, dark, quiet and comfortable bedroom is best.

6. Limit napping. Napping during the day may inhibit nighttime sleep. Limit daytime sleep to about a half-hour during mid-afternoon.

7. Sleep comfortably. The criteria for comfortable may vary, but make sure that it is comfortable for you.

8. A relaxing bedtime routine may help you to sleep. A warm bath, reading a good book or listening to soothing music may set the tone for a good night's rest.

9. Don't toss and turn. If you don't fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do something else. Then go back to bed when you're ready to sleep.

10. Check with your doctor before taking any sleep medications.

Here's to a good night's sleep.

N. Susan Emeagwali is managing editor of techniques. She can be contacted at 703-683-9339 or by e-mail at semeagwali@acteonline.org.
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Title Annotation:OTHERWISE
Author:Emeagwali, N. Susan
Publication:Techniques
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2008
Words:712
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