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Week draws awareness to importance of sleep

March 29, 2001

Week draws awareness to importance of sleep



By DAN KULIN / dank@herald-mail.com

As they turn their clocks forward one hour this weekend, a lot of American adults will lose another precious hour of sleep.

A poll released this week by the National Sleep Foundation found that 63 percent of American adults sleep fewer than eight hours a night.

Released to coincide with National Sleep Awareness Week, the poll also found that 31 percent of people surveyed sleep fewer than seven hours each week night, although they try to get more sleep on weekends.

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Those not getting enough sleep during the week accumulate a "sleep debt," which can and should be taken care of on the weekends, when most people can sleep longer, said Dr. Shaheen Iqbal, a Hagerstown sleep specialist.

The poll results were publicized by the National Sleep Foundation, a private organization based in Washington, D.C. The organization highlights this week, in part, because most Americans will lose an hour of sleeping time with the return of daylight-saving time at 2 a.m. Sunday.

If the alarm clock's snooze button is a big part of your morning, you're probably not getting enough sleep, Iqbal said. If you snore, sleep more than eight hours a night, and wake up tired, you may have a sleeping disorder, Iqbal said.

He said that while eight hours of sleep may be recommended, how much sleep one needs varies from person to person. A normal person should sleep 6.5 to 8.5 hours a night, he said.

"If you sleep 6 1/2 hours and feel good when you wake up, maybe that's all you need," Iqbal said.

Iqbal said people typically can tell whether they are getting enough sleep by how tired they are during the day. Getting too little sleep is not linked to an increased risk of diseases or strokes or heart attacks, but being tired has other negative effects, he said.

A tired person can be less productive at work and is less alert. A tired motorist's reaction time can be similar to that of a drunken driver's, he said.

People who think they are not getting enough sleep should try to go to bed an hour earlier or take a nap in the afternoon, Iqbal said. Other recommendations include, avoiding caffeine for 8 to 10 hours before going to bed, not eating or drinking too much before going to bed, having a regular sleep schedule and relaxing for at least one hour before bedtime.

Most of Iqbal's patients go to him because they are tired during the day. He said about 80 percent suffer from sleep apnea, a condition in which a sleeping person momentarily stops breathing.

Iqbal said sleep apnea occurs when the airway closes during sleep. The body wakes such people up for 10 to 15 seconds to restart their breathing and they usually do not realize they woke up.

"Sometimes people will wake up 200 to 300 times a night without realizing it," he said.

Overweight people are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. The most common symptom is snoring.

"Snoring alone is not so bad. But snoring and them complaining of being tired during the day can be an indication of sleep apnea," Iqbal said.

Sleep foundation poll results

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