Lifeguards might be lacking their ZZZs

July 04, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

Every summer, lifeguards - many of them teenagers - scan local pools for hours in an effort to ensure swimmers' safety. Problems could arise because teenagers are notorious for not getting enough sleep, according to the Sleep Disorder Diagnostic Centers of Chambersburg, Pa., and Shippensburg, Pa.

Only 20 percent of teenagers get an optimal amount of sleep, which is usually about nine hours, said Jennifer Davis, supervisor of the sleep lab at the center.

Energy drinks, food and power naps are no substitute for a good night's sleep, Davis said.

"We just never schedule enough time. We don't put sleep in the forefront," she said.

A good night's sleep could amount to six to eight hours.

"The most important thing is to wake up refreshed," she said.

The average age of lifeguards at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park in Halfway is 19, said Robert Myers, the pool's manager. Myers said the lifeguards usually take either half-hour or hour shifts guarding the pool and work an average of 6 1/2 hours a day.


At Claude M. Potterfield Pool in Hagerstown, the 17- and 18-year-old lifeguards work six to eight hours a day and actually guard for shifts of an hour to 90 minutes, said manager Dawn Peters.

Every 15 minutes, the guards switch chairs, which helps keep them alert, Peters said.

"When they switch, they have to re-evaluate their area," she said.

At her pool, the zones in the pool overlap so that more than one lifeguard is watching each area, Peters said.

Myers said he can recommend that his lifeguards get enough sleep, but he has no way of enforcing that.

Sleepy teens

Thirty-three percent of 18- to 25-year-olds said they had significant daytime sleepiness and 40 percent said they are sleepy at work two days a week or more, according to the National Sleep Foundation's Sleep in America poll.

Dr. Peter Jablin, at the sleep diagnostic center in Pennsylvania, said the best way to feel rested is plan on going to sleep at the same time every night for a week and to wake up at the same time for that week.

"It's absolutely revolutionary how you feel ... to feel what it's like to have enough," he said.

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