Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Sleep Smart

What good are you to your patients if you're falling asleep on the job? Well, you may be surprised to learn that most physicians fail to get the average recommended seven hours of sleep per night.

Sleep—like food and water—is necessary for everybody because it is a time when the body is at rest and can heal. Unfortunately, in today’s frantic society sleep tends to be put on the back burner because Americans are so busy trying to cram as many thing into a day as they possibly can; working, staring at a computer screen, driving, researching (or playing games) on the Internet, running errands, taking care of their children, watching TV, and countless other activities. It’s no wonder why the rest of the world thinks Americans are crazy—we don’t know how to “stop and smell the roses,” let alone sleep properly.

Make it a priorityExperts at the CDC call sleep loss “an under-recognized public health problem.” On February 28, they released the results from a four-state study—Delaware, Hawaii, New York, and Rhode Island—which evaluated how an adult’s overall health is affected by the amount of sleep he or she may be getting. The researchers learned that these adults are not getting enough sleep every night. CDC behavioral scientist Lela McKnight-Eily, lead researcher, told Reuters that staying up late watching TV or using the Internet has enabled Americans to take “sleep for granted as something that we can do when we have time or we can catch up on it on the weekends.” She also said, “We don’t realize that sleep is a vital part of overall health and that chronic sleep loss is related to both physical and mental health issues.”

Results from a second study were released a few days later by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), which also illustrated the same problem. The average amount of sleep calculated for the 1,000 survey participants was six hours and 40 minutes during the week. It is recommended that adults get a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night to achieve maximum productivity the next day, but based on the survey results, this is not the case.

Sleep recommendations from the CDC:

1. Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning

2. Sleep in a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold

3. Make your bed comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music

4. Remove all TVs, computers, and other "gadgets" from the bedroom

5. Avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime

6. Avoid large meals before bedtime

Physicians need sleep, too

Patients aren’t the only ones who have bad sleeping habits. Barbara Phillips, MD, FCCP, Chair of the American College of Chest Physicians Sleep Institute (ACCP-SI), says, “Physicians need to make sleep a priority.” Research conducted by ACCP-SI showed that “most physicians sleep fewer hours than needed for peak performance and nearly half of physicians believe their work schedules do not allow for adequate sleep.” Phillips says that ‘after hours’ work and being on call, which “likely impairs driving and judgment the next day,” are two reasons for why this occurs. Her suggestion on how physicians can improve their sleeping habits is to “take [this] knowledge into consideration.”

When asked if the implementation of healthcare technology could help physicians get better sleep, Phillips says, “Technology helps us to work ‘smarter.’ Being able to read X-rays (or sleep studies) at home can reduce travel time, and perhaps increase sleep time.” This is just another reason why remote health monitoring and other technology is beneficial to physicians.

Awareness

With approximately 50-70 million Americans dealing with sleep disorders and sleep loss due to health problems like obesity, depression, and behavioral risks, everybody needs to understand the importance of sleep, both physically and mentally. Every year the NSF does its part to increase sleep awareness through its Sleep Awareness Week, always held prior to the annual “spring ahead” daylight savings time. It is important for all Americans and everyone else in the world, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes sleep. This is something that cannot continue to be overlooked.

Additional Resources

Early to bed early to rise ... depends on the TV schedule in your time zone

The Educated Patient® - Sleep disorders

Journal SLEEP

Sleepnet.com