Sleep Deprived in Seattle (And Everywhere Else)
March 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM
There are many things we do less of now than in the past, and sleeping is one of them. In fact, studies show that people sleep an average of 20-percent less today than they did a century ago. Then, nine hours of sleep a night was typical; today it is closer to seven and a half hours spent in bed, with considerably less spent actually sleeping. And it’s not just adults that are sleeping less. The National Sleep Foundation’s annual survey in 2004 found that children were also getting less sleep than they needed, including infants.
“A few reasons we are sleeping less include the invention of electric light, jobs becoming more urban in nature, and an increase in technology in the home,” explains Darius Zoroufy, M.D., medical director of the Lake Sammamish Sleep Center.
Technology is one of the most glaring reasons behind American’s lack of sleep. “A 2009 study reported that TV is the number one factor keeping adults awake,” says Dr. Zoroufy. Computers, iPods, and cell phones are similar culprits.
“Not only are these things taking up our time, but they are stimulating us mentally, making it difficult for us to shift gears and fall asleep.”
Swedish Pediatric Sleep Specialist, Preetam Bandla, M.D., agrees. “Light from screen media can activate the light-sensitive circadian cells in our brains that regulate when we are maximally alert and maximally sleepy,” he explains, “So our TVs and computer screens can keep us from wanting to sleep.”
Technology is not solely to blame for our lack of sleep, however. “The majority of sleep problems result from self imposed and externally imposed factors,” says Dr. Zoroufy. “There are simply too many opportunities and pressures to stay awake.”
The demands of work, school, family and social activities are causing people to become overscheduled and the first thing people give up is sleep. “The idea that we can sleep less and still function well is a misperception,” says Dr. Bandla.
So how much sleep do we need and what can we do to obtain it?
Although individual sleep needs vary, the National Sleep Foundation states on average adults need 7 to 9 hours, teenagers need at least 9, children aged six to twelve require 10 to 11 and preschoolers should have 11 to 13 hours. The tricky part is fitting sleep into our busy, over-stimulated lives (here are some tips that may help).
“People should try to accomplish mentally and physically demanding tasks earlier in the evening, leaving less active tasks for later,” advises Dr. Zoroufy. “And interacting with technology is fine, but it should be scheduled away from bedtime.
Try a routine of turning off the TV or computer and starting to wind down about one hour before going to bed. “For children,” says Dr. Bandla, “a 20 to 30 minute calming routine would include no TV, movies, computers or video games and no rowdy activities like wrestling with dad. A light snack like fruit or milk and a transitional object like a stuffed animal or blanket can also help with falling asleep.”
It is also worth mentioning that the bedroom environment for both adults and children should be cool, dark and quiet for optimal sleep. “Sometimes it’s a challenge to set these limits for ourselves,” says Dr. Zoroufy.
“However, getting enough sleep is critical to good health.” If simple techniques for getting more and better sleep aren’t working and fatigue is disrupting your life, talk with your physician or contact Sleep Medicine Associates at Swedish for an appointment at one of our clinics.
Swedish Sleep Medicine is the largest, most comprehensive sleep medicine facility in the Pacific Northwest. Our board-certified sleep specialists have subspecialties in neurology, psychiatry, internal medicine, neuropsychiatry, pediatrics and pediatric pulmonology.
Sleep clinics are located at Issaquah, Redmond, Seattle-Cherry Hill, North Seattle, and Edmonds.
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