SAN DIEGO, November 2, 2013 – It is the weekend the one in four Americans who report being sleep deprived revel in. In most of the nation, we will “fall back” this Sunday, November 3, setting our clocks back one hour as Daylight Saving Time officially ends at 2 a.m. and we return to Daylight Standard Time.
There are a few exceptions. Hawaii, Arizona, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands don’t follow Daylight Saving Time, so they can ignore the time change as the rest of us sync back up with them.
While many of us joke about the luxury of that extra hour of Zzzs, sleep deprivation is no joke for millions of people. The National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep In America survey found that 28 percent of working Americans admitted missing work, events and activities, or making mistakes at work because of sleep-related issues in the previous three months.
Consider this: Several major disasters have been caused in part due to human errors in the workplace attributed to sleep deprivation: the Challenger space shuttle explosion, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl nuclear accident, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska.
Most people have heard the general advice about averaging eight hours of sleep a night, varying a bit from person to person. It doesn’t take falling short of this too often to create a serious problem. Over a two-week period, missing out on the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep adds up to two full nights’ sleep debt, one study found.
If you’re averaging only four hours a night, your brain reacts as though you haven’t slept at all for three consecutive nights.
Many people don’t realize how sleep-deprived they are, mainly because they are too tired, experts say. They have slower reaction time, weaker memory, and other thinking impairments.
The roster of physical and mental health issues linked to sleep deprivation seems to grow with every study: obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road.
Nearly one-third of all respondents to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2008 sleep poll reported that they have driven drowsy at least once per month during the past year. Of those who drive, more than one-third had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving a vehicle. Two percent had an accident or near accident due to drowsiness while driving.
Sleep-deprived drivers are just as dangerous as drunk drivers. In one study, people who drove after being awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those who had a blood alcohol level of .05%. A blood alcohol level of .08% is considered legally intoxicated in many states.
Joseph Kaplan, MD, co-director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, says on the health advice website WebMD.com the most vulnerable times for sleepiness are between 5 and 8 a.m., and 2 to 4 p.m. Most alert times: between 10 a.m. and noon and 7 to 9 p.m.
Dr. Kaplan is a fan of napping, and offers this method of napping combined with a safe stimulant: Drink a full cup of coffee, then immediately take a 20 to 30 minute nap. Dr. Kaplan explains that caffeine doesn’t take effect for about 30 minutes, so you get the benefit of both.
If you’re having trouble sleeping in general, sleep experts have several basic suggestions. First, turning off the computer or TV earlier in the evening will help. The light from our electronic devices can play serious tricks with the sleep triggers in our brain. Next, try cutting back on caffeine and alcohol in the evening, if not in general. Develop slowing down routines to help you remove yourself from the day’s tensions, which don’t involve eating, exercise, or watching TV. This is what DVRs were invented for.
If your problem is more serious, consider consulting a medical professional specializing in sleep disorders who has access to the latest tools including newer formula sleep medications and behavioral therapy, both of which can help you break the pattern of insomnia.
Daylight Saving Time used to end on the last Sunday in October, about a week before Election Day. Starting in 2007 an extra week was added so that Daylight Saving Time ended in November as a way to increase voter participation. The thinking is that more people would go to the polls after work if it was still light outside. That won’t help this year since Election Day in many states is on the Tuesday after the time changes back. But back in 2010, and again in 2021, 2027, and 2032, the time change will happen after Election Day. This will give researchers the chance to find out whether this theory is true.
For the last 25 years, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the Energizer company have reminded people to change and test the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when setting the clocks to and from daylight saving time. Thirty percent of alarms and detectors are not functional at any given time due to dead batteries.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She covers media and TV for Communities. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science. Read Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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