Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Back into Bed and Catch Up On Sleep

/24-7/ -- On November 1st, standard time will take effect. While many people may use the extra hour to watch TV, surf the Internet, stay out late, or catch up on chores, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) advises everyone to use the extra hour to pay off sleep debt.

Sleeping less than 7-8 hours a night impairs alertness and is associated with increased obesity, morbidity and mortality. Despite this fact, up to 40 percent of Americans sleep for less than the recommended time per night. Lifestyle choices, personal obligations and occupational demands all can produce sleep deprivation. Another cause can be an ongoing sleep disorder or medical condition that disturbs sleep.

According to research presented at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, watching television seemed to be the most important time cue for the beginning of the sleep period, rather than hours past sunset or biological factors. So, in fact, TV may make people stay up late, while alarm clocks make them get up early, potentially reducing sleep time below what is physiologically needed.

According to the researchers, Mathias Basner, MD, MS, MSc, and David F. Dinges, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, "Given the relationship of short sleep duration to health risks, there is concern that many Americans are chronically under-sleeping due to lifestyle choices," said Dinges. Dr. Basner added that "According to our results, watching less television in the evening and postponing work start time in the morning appear to be the candidate behavioral changes for achieving additional sleep and reducing chronic sleep debt. While the timing of work may not be flexible, giving up some TV viewing in the evening should be possible to promote adequate sleep."

The primary symptom of sleep deprivation is daytime sleepiness, which can be overcome temporarily by an increase in concentration and effort, or with the help of a stimulant such as caffeine. The effects of ongoing sleep deprivation are much stronger, however, and can make sleep impossible to resist. Sleep deprivation poses numerous health risks, including high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and obesity. It also can lead to drowsy driving, which is associated with almost 20 percent of all serious car-crash injuries.

"Adequate quantity and quality of sleep is crucial for maximum daytime performance," said American Academy of Sleep Medicine spokesperson William Kohler, MD, medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Fla. "Activities that interfere with the ability to get that sleep (such as cell phone use, television watching, exciting activities and consuming caffeine) need to be avoided prior to bedtime."

Because the upcoming time change occurs in the middle of the night, sleep cycles can be disturbed. The AASM offers some guidelines for better sleep:

•On the night of the time change, turn your clocks back one hour.
•Do not nap during the day. If you must snooze, limit the time to less than one hour and no later than 3 p.m.
•Maintain a regular wake-up time, even on weekends.
•Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, heavy meals, and exercising a few hours before bedtime.
•Stick to rituals that help you relax each night before bed. This can include such things as a warm bath, a light snack or a few minutes of reading.
•Don't take your worries to bed. Bedtime is a time to relax, not to hash out the stresses of the day.
•If you can't fall asleep, leave your bedroom and engage in a quiet activity. Return to bed only when you are tired.
•Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and a little cool.

The AASM encourages people to discuss any sleep-related problems with a board certified sleep specialist at an accredited Sleep Center. Find a sleep center at

AASM is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research. As the national accrediting body for sleep disorders centers and laboratories for sleep related breathing disorders, the AASM promotes the highest standards of patient care. The organization serves its members and advances the field of sleep health care by setting the clinical standards for the field of sleep medicine, advocating for recognition, diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, educating professionals dedicated to providing optimal sleep health care and fostering the development and application of scientific knowledge.

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