By Terry Cralle, RN and W. David Brown, PhD.
May was Better Sleep Month, and 2016 may just turn out to be the Better Sleep Year. We are finally waking up to what sleep researchers have been trying to tell us for years:
Sleep is a biological imperative and a prerequisite
for good health, productivity, success, and overall well-being.
The better-sleep message is out there, and if you haven’t heard it, now’s the time to pay attention to the fact that you need sufficient sleep to lead your best life possible.
Significant progress to date in our quest for better health through sleep can be attributed to:
- organizations that are making extraordinary efforts in the dissemination of sleep information to the public at large. They include the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the National Sleep Foundation, the Better Sleep Council, and the American Sleep Association.
- the many researchers, physicians, psychologists, and scientists who devoted their careers to advancing our understanding of this all-too-largely-ignored area of human behavior. All of us in the field stand on the shoulders of such luminaries as Nathaniel Kleitman, Eugene Aserinsky, William C. Dement, Michel Jouvet, Henri Gastaut, Allan Rechtschaffen, Mary Carskadon, and many others who began to shine light on the mysteries of sleep.
- an unprecedented effort to push back school start times to maximize not only learning, but also the health and safety of our teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the organization Start School Later, and sleep medicine specialist Dr. Judith Owens have worked tirelessly to educate the public on the importance of sufficient sleep for teens. For more information, visit startschoollater.net.
- groundbreaking research by Cheri Mah of Stanford University, which demonstrated that by extending sleep time in athletes, we can improve their performance. This research is changing the way athletes train while shedding light on the numerous and amazing benefits of sleep.
- the mattress and bedding industry, which has transformed into a valued partner in the healthy sleep lifestyle movement. New science, new technologies, new materials and textiles, more education, more transparency, and new modes of delivery are available to consumers. Many brick-and-mortar, as well as online retailers, have transformed into valuable “clearinghouses” for information on sleep for consumers. The role of the sleep surface in sleep health and wellness is finally realized.
- the availability of a large variety of personal sleep trackers. While not meant to replace professional assessment, sleep trackers can provide you with useful information about your sleep. With a variety of models available, including JawboneUp3, Fitbit Blaze, Basis Peak and SleepRate, there are numerous options for most budgets. Several websites have provided product description and reviews of these devices, including http://activitytrackerworld.com/the-best-sleep-trackers/ and http://www.nosleeplessnights.com/best-sleep-tracker/.
- numerous charities and non-profits that understand the importance of sleep as a basic human need that can be compromised by distress, disaster, lack of education, or poverty. These include The Pajama Program, Relief Bed, and Sweet Dreamzzz.
- the discussion and implementation of accommodations for sanctioned napping in the workplace. Napping research conducted by NASA in 1995 and later studies by Sara Mednick and Dimitrios Trichopoulos and colleagues have contributed to our increased understanding of the value of naps.
- the National Sleep Foundation’s “Updated Sleep Time Duration Recommendations” for all age groups, put together by a committee of internationally recognized sleep experts and published in 2015, which is available at https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times.
- informative books on sleep from sleep physicians, psychologists, and clinicians working in the field of sleep medicine. These include:
- Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: A Doctor’s Guide to Solving Your Sleep Problems (2014) by Dr. Robert Rosenberg
- The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep (2008) by Dr. Lawrence Epstein
- Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health (2006) and The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight through Better Sleep (2011) by Dr. Michael Breus
- The Promise of Sleep (1999) by Dr. William C. Dement
- Power Sleep (1998) by Dr. James Maas
When it comes to sleep, It’s evident that we have definitely come a long way. And this new information is certain to improve our collective health, safety, and well-being. Let’s make 2016 the year we “wake up” and make sufficient sleep a personal, family, classroom, and workplace value.