A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with Iowa senators and representatives about the importance of sleep. Members of and advocates for the National Sleep Foundation gathered to educate and information lawmakers on three sleep-related issues, including:
1.Studying the effects of delayed school start times. The 2014 Sleep in America poll found that teenagers, ages 15 through 17, are only receiving about 7.1 hours of sleep a night, when the recommended sleep time for this age group is 8.5-9.5 hours a night. To help reduce this deficit, the National Sleep Foundation helped introduce a bill called Zzz’s to A’s, encouraging the Secretary of Education to conduct a study examining the relationship between school start times and adolescent health and well-being. Sleep experts believe shifting school start times, even just an hour later in the morning, can improve student academic performance, attendance, enrollment rates and increased daytime alertness.
2.Studying sleep in the military. Many veterans have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, which often includes side effects involving insomnia and other problems sleep. Some studies have linked improvements in PTSD symptoms with protected sleep through insomnia treatments and healthy sleep routines. The National Sleep Foundation is seeking funding to conduct further research.
3.Sleep in the elderly. As people age, their sleep patterns change. The older you get, the more likely you are to experience trouble falling asleep and problems staying asleep, resulting in daytime drowsiness. The National Sleep Foundation wants to increase awareness of the elderly’s sleep needs for the elderly themselves and the people taking care of them in care facilities or senior living homes. Additionally, there’s a need for educating these audiences on factors contributing sleep problems affecting older age groups and how increased activity and interaction during the day can bring about better sleep at night.
These are just three of the issues the National Sleep Foundation is advocating for in Washington, D.C. Research on these topics will also impact communities at a local level, such as here in Des Moines, to make decisions, create programs and raise awareness of the importance of sleep to overall health. Understanding the benefits of a good night’s sleep, and having evidence to support those claims, can help our community prioritize sleep, ultimately becoming healthier, happier and more productive.
I challenge you to make sleep a priority throughout this week, and take advantage of resources on the National Sleep Foundation and Iowa Sleep websites to learn about sleep problems that could be affecting you.