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November 12, 2007
Are You Tired of Not Getting Enough Sleep?

Everybody needs a good night's sleep. We all need to sleep. You can tell that just by what happens when you don't get enough sleep.

  • You feel groggy and fatigued.
  • Your physical reactions are slower.
  • Your judgment probably isn't as good, and you're likely to make more mistakes.
  • You may make bad safety decisions and be at greater risk of having an accident.

Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to other complications, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Obesity

Given the hectic work and home schedules of many American adults, more than a few are at risk of health and safety problems because of too little sleep. Some of your employees could be among those at risk.

It's all about sleep and sleep cycles. Sleep experts tell us there are 5 stages of sleep.

Why It Matters ...
  • An estimated 50 million to 70 million Americans have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, reports NIH.
  • According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, most American adults sleep less than the recommended 7 hours a night, and more than half report symptoms of insomnia at least a couple of nights a week.
  • Too little sleep can affect performance and safety on the job and on the road.
  • Long-term, untreated sleep disorders can lead to serious health problems.

Stages 1 and 2 occur when you first fall asleep. These stages are known as light sleep. Stages 3 and 4 are known as deep sleep, which usually occurs after a person has been sleeping for a while. The fifth stage is called REM sleep, for the rapid eye movements that take place during this stage when we dream. It generally takes about an hour and a half to work through all the stages. This 90-minute period is known as a sleep cycle. To have a good sleep that restores your mind and body, sleep experts recommend 7 to 8 hours of sleep for adults (more for children and adolescents). This much sleep allows for about five sleep cycles. Some people can do fine on less sleep, but they are in the minority. Most of us need a full night (or day's) sleep to function well on the job, drive safely, and have enough energy to handle family and personal responsibilities successfully throughout our waking hours.

Here's how to get a good sleep. Suggest employees try these better sleep tips from the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

  • Keep a regular sleep and wake schedule.
  • Avoid caffeine and cigarettes in the late afternoon and don't drink alcohol to help you sleep.
  • Avoid going to bed on either a full or an empty stomach.
  • Use your bedroom primarily for sleeping. Sleep in a dark, quiet, well-ventilated space with a comfortable temperature.
  • Relax before going to bed. Take a warm bath, listen to soothing music, meditate, or try relaxation or breathing exercises.
  • Face your clock away from the bed to avoid focusing on time if you awake before morning.
  • If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed or wake early and can't get back to sleep, get out of bed and try a relaxing activity such as reading until you become drowsy.
  • Regular exercise can help improve sleep, as long as you don't exercise within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid household chores, paperwork, or other stimulating activities for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Use over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids only for short periods of time and only under the direction of your doctor. Some sleep aids can make you drowsy during the day and cause other side effects.
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