National Sleep Awareness Week

(March 3-9)

Daylight Saving Time (DST) starts for most of the United States at 2 AM on the second Sunday of March – March 8th this year. Only Hawaii and Arizona do not observe DST, with me exception of the Navajo Nation which does observe DST, even in Arizona.

The "spring forward" to DST act as a reminder to also check the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, and to check the supplies in your home disaster kit to be sure nothing has expired since you last stocked up on emergency supplies.

While supporters of DST point out the many benefits of more daylight hours in the evening (energy conservation, fewer traffic accidents and fatalities, fewer violent crimes and higher voter turnout), the many people who intensely dislike the semiannual time shift are quick to point out the disadvantages (lost productivity, inconvenience, and sleep disturbances). Adjusting to a new time schedule can be mildly annoying for most of us, but people dealing with sleep disorders can experience major problems as the hours of daylight shift. Sleep deprivation can impair driving similar to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.8%, illegal in most states and definitely not safe. If you experience a sleep disorder, monitor your level of sleepiness closely while you are adjusting to the time change. You can download a Sleepiness Diary to help you record your level of sleepiness and how difficult it is for you to stay awake during your day, on the web site of the National Sleep Foundation at www.sleepfoundation.org.

What a great time to focus on sleep awareness!!! Adequate sleep is as important healthy functioning as is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Sleep rejuvenates our bodies and our minds, regulates our moods, and helps us to manage the day to day stress of living. Not only does adequate sleep allow us to enjoy our relationships with others and function safely and well at school or at work, it seems that sleep is a critical factor in maintain physical health and emotional well-being. Do not deprive yourself of sleep.

Our bodies have a natural tendency to be awake during the day and asleep at night. When we try to overcome this natural tendency so that we can "get more done" or because we must work a late night shift at our jobs, sleep deprivation can produce an excessive sleepiness that reduces quality of life, decrease productivity and interferences with safety and with relationships. We all remember when we tried to do too much – maybe go to school and/or work, and wake to feed the baby or comfort a sick family member at night. Next thing we notice is that each time we sit in one place – maybe to watch television or to drive our car – we feel very sleepy and have difficulty staying awake. Napping while driving the car can be a real safety problem.

There are many causes for excessive sleepiness and if you are experiencing this on a regular basis, please discuss this with your healthcare professional. However, there are actions most of us can take that will promote healthy sleep and improve our alertness and productivity during the day.

. Create a sleeping space that is comfortable, quick, dark (for most of us) and a bit cool.




. Use your sleeping space only for sleep (and for sex)

. Remove all other distractions (telephone, television, homework, projects, computer, etc)

. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. No strenuous exercise within 3 hours before bedtime. Take a bath or a shower, if it relaxes you and message your body with oil or lotion. Some enjoy reading a book or listening to calming music for a while before going to bed. Quiet, calm activities usually promote sleep.

. Follow a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends, going to bed and waking at the same times. It becomes easier to fall asleep when follow a routine schedule.

. Avoid a big meal just before bedtime. A light snack prior to bedtime. A light snack prior to bedtime can satisfy any hunger. Try yogurt, or milk and crackers before bedtime.

. Limit or avoid nicotine and alcohol before bedtime as both can interference with sleep.

Developing these actions into healthy habits will help most of us deal with the disturbances in sleep that come from changing to DST.

Each person has their own ideal amount of sleep required and sleep needs change over a lifetime. Teens and young adults may need more than nine hours of sleep is adequate. Older adults may nap during the day, but not too close to bedtime, to make up for waking more often during the night. But regardless of age, it is important that we get adequate sleep. Our physical and emotional health and safety depend upon it.

Interesting fact:

In the Philippines, DST is not observed, although the country did observe DST periodically from 1986 to 1998. In 2006, the Philippine Department of trade was unsuccessful in a petition to implement DST. Probably the proximity of the Philippines to the equator makes the idea of DST less desirable when the hours of day and night are already nearly the same length.

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