GUEST POST BY TERRY CRALLE
Sleep comprises a substantial part of our lives and is an integral component of our overall functioning. The hours we spend sleeping impacts virtually every aspect of our 16 waking hours—everything from health to mood, outlook, weight, decision-making, memory and relationships. You name it, sleep impacts it. Sleep is a mandatory, biological requirement—not a luxury and not an option we choose only as our hectic schedules permit.
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Its benefits are numerous, even astounding. Current research clearly demonstrates that sleep is to be valued, prioritized, protected and respected, if we are to enjoy good physical and psychological health and positive well-being and achieve our maximum potential.
What happens from lack of sleep?
What’s important to know is what a lack of sleep can do—and it can do a lot. A lack of sleep causes a host of health problems, some quite serious. Hypertension, stroke, depression, osteoarthritis and diabetes are just a few of the conditions that are caused by or worsened by inadequate sleep quality and quantity. A lack of sleep causes accidents—from drowsy driving to oil spills to nuclear disasters. Insufficient sleep can result in depression, decreased motivation, irritability and a poor outlook. It can also hurt our relationships, get us fired, impair our judgment and curtail our creativity.
Despite its importance, adequate sleep eludes many of us—perhaps now more than ever. Sleep has been undervalued and largely ignored, but the subject of sleep is experiencing widespread attention and recognition from researchers, educators, employers, healthcare providers, executives and parents, alike. Not only is sleep an important part of our lives, but it is a fascinating subject as well.
Raising awareness for healthy sleep lifestyles
Where sleep is concerned, knowledge is power. The more you know about sleep, the more you will protect it, prioritize it and get it. Adopt a healthy sleep lifestyle and encourage others to do the same. Share sleep knowledge with everyone. Our collective health, safety, well-being and quality of life depend on it.
Use these excellent online resources to learn more about sleep:
Better Sleep Council
The Better Sleep Council is one of several excellent resources available to help you learn more about sleep.
This website offers a wide array of information about sleep and the sleep environment, including:
• Sleep Statistics and Research
• Stages of Sleep
• How to Sleep Better
• Sleep Positions
• Sleep FAQs
• Children and Sleep
The Better Sleep Council’s website also serves as a comprehensive resource on mattresses, with helpful sections on mattress types, sizes and warranties, as well as information about pillows and toppers. The Mattress Buying Guide is a must-have for anyone in the market for a new mattress. With this informative guide in hand, consumers will easily navigate the mattress-selection process.
Centers for Disease Control
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website exclusively devoted to sleep and sleep disorders. This site provides information on sleep and chronic disease, sleep disorders, and sleep hygiene. Two-page, state-by-state color fact sheets on insufficient sleep are available for download at www.cdc.gov/sleep/publications/factsheets.htm.
You’ll also find informative podcasts at www.cdc.gov/sleep/publications/podcasts_cards.htm on a variety of subjects, including:
• Don’t Sleep While Driving
• Don’t Be a Night Owl
• Sleep on It
• No Rest for the Weary
• Stay Awake Behind the Wheel
Also available for download from the CDC website is an e-card titled Sleep is a Necessity, Not a Luxury, part of a line of 100 health e-cards available on the site.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Another sleep resource is the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. While geared toward clinicians, the AASM website has some great information. Under the tab Practice Guidelines is a section called Research News, where you can find some interesting headlines (with the option to click for more detailed information). A recent scroll through the section headlines revealed interesting topics such as:
- Poor sleep quality linked to physical disability in older adults
- The prevalence of sleep disorders in firefighters
- How treating sleep apnea with CPAP reduces the risk of motor vehicle accidents
- Gallup poll links more sleep to higher well-being
- The increase in melatonin usage
- Treating veterans for insomnia reduces suicidal thoughts
- Treatment options for nightmares
- The link between insufficient sleep and poor academic performance in teens
- The link between early high school times and increased teen car crashes
Featured on the AASM website is Sleep Education. This site is geared toward the general public and contains a wealth of information on such topics as sleep disorders, healthy sleep habits, home sleep study testing, drowsy driving and oral appliances for sleep apnea.
Sleep education videos are available and include topics such as white noise for sleep, insomnia and fatigue education for truckers. Also contained within this website are lesson plans for school sleep education for grades K–12. Infographics and downloadable children’s books on sleep make this user-friendly site an educational resource about sleep with something for everyone.
National Institute on Aging
This website has an Age Page titled “A Good Night’s Sleep.” This five-page pdf contains sleep tips and valuable information on safe sleeping.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
In addition to good information on sleep, this site offers a 64-page booklet titled “Your Guide to Healthy Sleep.”
It contains an introductory section on sleep in general, addresses how much sleep is enough and provides an overview of common sleep disorders.
American Sleep Apnea Association
The American Sleep Apnea Association is a nonprofit organization promoting education, awareness, and research into sleep apnea. This site also addresses sleep health in general and provides information on other sleep disorders. There are related product offerings as well as information about A.W.A.K.E education and support groups for people with sleep apnea.
WebMD provides a host of information on sleep topics, including numerous slideshows. Available at (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-disorders-support-resources), slideshow titles include “Healthy Sleep Habits and Foods that Help or Harm Your Sleep,” and a sleep quiz to test your knowledge on sleep. An online sleep tracker is available with a subscription to WebMD. Sleep trackers can help individuals determine the causes of disrupted sleep, things that help with a restful night’s sleep and how food, alcohol and stress affect sleep patterns.
Sleep and Wellness Magazine
Brought to you by the American Sleep and Breathing Academy, issues of this magazine are available online (a general subscription is free) and include an interesting assortment of sleep topics. A recent issue dealt with NFL players “tackling” sleep apnea. An infographic, “You Snooze You Lose,” is also available on the website.
Ivy League Sleep
Harvard’s Sleep and Health Education Program has general information on healthy sleep, steps you can take to get good sleep, and information on sleep disorders. Numerous videos make this site engaging as well as informative. For example, Shaquille O’Neal is featured in a video about sleep apnea. The Get Sleep section addresses shift work and good sleep habits.
From Harvard Health Publications, a 52-page report, “Improving Sleep: A Guide to a Good Night’s Rest,” is available for purchase. The report was prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Lawrence Epstein, M.D., Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Division of Sleep Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Medical Director, Sleep Health Centers, Brighton, MA. Topics include sleep throughout life, the mechanics of sleep, strategies to improve sleep, insomnia, sleep aids, snoring, jet lag, shift work, and the benefits of good sleep.
The Stanford Center for Sleep Science and Medicine has an overview of normal sleep in all age groups as well as a section dedicated to sleep in women. There is also a section with comprehensive information on common sleep disorders including pediatric sleep disorders, shift work and insomnia.
BSC spokesperson Terry Cralle is a registered nurse and certified clinical sleep educator based in Charlottesville, Virginia.