According to the all-seeing folks at Google there are 242,470,820 adults (defined as people over the age of 18) living in the United States today. This week, healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente said over 80 million of them had trouble either falling or staying asleep last night. Recent studies by bettersleep.org indicate that 10 million Americans have struggled with sleep for so long it has become a health crisis time bomb. Lack of sleep has been found to be a contributing factor in everything from heart disease to kidney failure. We are an increasing hazard on our nation’s highways, and the maladies caused by our lack of sleep accounts for over $77 million a year in healthcare costs. We are a nation of people who need some sleep!
The crisis costs the sleepy folks up to 11 missed workdays a year and their employers up to $2,280 in productivity per employee annually. That means up to two weeks of vacation a year are frittered away because someone was just too tired to go to work. When they showed up they were at less than full capacity.
What’s going on out there?
Here is how it is supposed to go. If asked “What time do you wake up in the morning?” the answer should be a simple one.
“I get up at 6:45 and usually go to the gym or run outside.”A gold star for you.
Too many people have a much more convoluted answer. It goes something like this.
“I go to bed at 11:00 except on the weekends when I go out with my friends and we stay out until 2-3 a.m. I’m usually up around noon on those days. On Tuesdays I try to go to bed at 9 p.m. because Wednesdays I get up early for this exercise class. On those days, I go out to my car at lunch and sleep for 45 minutes. I call it a power nap. Once a month, I’ll use a sick day and stay home from work so I can sleep all day.”
Someone should join the Army. In fact, military Boot Camp does this sleep thing better than anywhere else. Up for breakfast at the same time everyday. Are you a little tired? The morning P.T. will take care of that. After a long day of marching and being belittled by a man with anger management issues you will sleep…guaranteed.
What can be done for those of us who aren’t jolted out of bed by the sound of “Reveille?” Fortunately there are ideas out there. If none of these work a serious consultation with a doctor or sleep professional is something to consider.
- Make Sleep an Agenda Item: Important things in your life get a spot on the calendar. That sends a message to your brain that they are a priority. Sleep belongs in that group.
- A Relaxing Routine: Take a bath before bed. If you like to watch late-night TV, perhaps The Fast and the Furious isn’t your best choice. Do you need to fight with your spouse about something? Wait until the sun is out.
- Sleep in a Sanctuary: Keep it dark, quiet and cool in the bedroom. If your alarm clock glows, turn it to its darkest setting.
- Consider a Mattress and Pillow Upgrade: Your body has changed in the last seven years and your mattress should be changed to fit the new you. Pillows should be changed every year.
- Know When to Quit: Stop working before dinner. Stop exercising before 5 p.m. Stop ingesting caffeine (including chocolate) by 2 p.m. Stop eating three hours before you want to fall asleep.
- Get Elbow Room in Bed: Couples who sleep on a so-called double bed only have as much room as if in a baby’s crib. There is nothing romantic about sleep deprivation. Yes, he loves you very much. Yes, she adores you o distraction. Get a King sized bed and get a good night’s sleep.