Do you know how much sleep you get impacts your quality of life? photo credit: BeauGiles via photopin cc

Do you know how much sleep you get impacts your quality of life? photo credit: BeauGiles via photopin cc

If you are an average American your answer would be 6 hours and 40 minutes which is most likely less than you need.  According to one of the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America polls, this is the average amount of sleep adults are getting even though most of us need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours a night.  Research has shown again and again that not getting enough sleep has serious, long term consequences to all areas of our lives and yet, our culture still supports the belief that sacrificing sleep is virtuous.   In order to safeguard our collective health, our relationships, and even our streets, we need to start shifting the way we, as a society, view sleep and make getting a good night’s sleep as high a priority as having access to clean water and safe food.

The National Sleep Foundation is leading the way in creating this kind of change.   Shifting the way people look at sleep and increasing awareness about the consequences of not getting enough sleep are both objectives of National Sleep Awareness Week which is sponsored each year by the NSF.  This week long campaign runs from March 3rd -10th this year and kicks off with the release of the latest Sleep in America poll results.  The annual Sleep in America poll examines the connection between different factors and sleep.  For 2013, the focus of the Sleep in America poll is Sleep and Exercise. 

Across the country, sleep centers and other community organizations will be sponsoring sleep awareness events over the course of that week, wrapping up with the majority of Americans losing an hour of sleep as Daylight Savings Time ends for large portions of the country.   For information on National Sleep Awareness Week events and activities, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @sleepfoundation.

You can also get involved on a smaller scale.   Changing the way we look at sleep starts with our own attitudes about sleep.  If we aren’t making sleep a priority, it is more likely that we won’t get the sleep we need to maintain good health.  If we are ignoring the signs of a sleep disorder, we may be compromising our health now and well into the future.  Take part in National Sleep Awareness Week by dedicating that week to changing how sleep is viewed in your own life.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Spend the week figuring out how much sleep you need.  While the NSF recommends 7-9 hours for most adults, the amount of sleep you need is specific to you.  The best way to determine the right amount of sleep for you is to allow yourself to sleep until you awaken naturally which means without an alarm or external intervention.  Keeping a log of when you go to bed and when you get up for several days can help you figure out the right amount for you.
  2. If you struggle with sleep, meet with your doctor.  You may have an underlying sleep disorder or medical condition that is preventing you from getting the sleep you need.
  3. Revamp your sleep environment.  Check that your bedroom isn’t being used for anything except sleep and sex.  Look for sleep stealers like excessive light and sound, temperatures that are too hot or cold and uncomfortable arrangements.  Small changes can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.

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