WESTCHESTER, Ill. As we approach the new year, we also approach the season of new year’s resolutions. However, even the firmest resolutions made at the beginning of the new year are difficult to keep. As the year progresses, you may lack the physical energy and mental strength to maintain your commitment for the long-haul. One reason is that you may not be getting the amount of sleep you need to feel your best. Making sleep your top priority in 2008 will help you achieve all of your other goals – you’ll have more energy, will be more focused and will feel happier and more optimistic.

Ron Kramer, MD, of the Colorado Neurology Institute’s Sleep Disorders Center in Englewood, Colo., acknowledges that we all have made, and maybe even kept, two of the most common resolutions: exercising more and losing weight. But, says Dr. Kramer, before one makes these same resolutions, perhaps a simpler – and arguably more
pleasant – resolution is all that is needed to encompass a three-for-one solution: Resolving to maintain enough sleep for you to optimize your own health.
“There is growing medical literature showing that many of us in today’s ‘24/7’ society are not getting the basic sleep we need every day,” says Dr. Kramer. “At the same time, there is increasing evidence from human sleep researchers that chronic lack of even a few hours of sleep a night can result in significant health consequences. These consequences include an increased risk of accidents, fatigue that makes you prone to depressive symptoms or not enough energy to exercise and even chemical changes that stimulate your brain to eat more and to eat more salty and sugary food.”
In an effort to help people recognize that they’re not getting enough sleep at night, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) outlines seven signs that one may need more sleep:
  1. You’re dependent on an alarm clock.
If you’re getting enough sleep, then you should be able to wake up on time without a morning alarm. Hitting the snooze button a couple times before getting up is a clear sign of sleep loss.
  1. You’re driving drowsy.
Falling asleep at the wheel is a sure sign that you are too tired. It’s also dangerous. Drowsy driving is a common cause of deadly auto accidents.
  1. You’re attached to the coffee pot.
A cup of coffee to get your day started is no big deal. But you shouldn’t have to drink coffee all day long to stay awake.
  1. You’re making mistakes.
It’s harder to focus and concentrate when you’re tired. You’re easily distracted, and you’re less likely to detect and correct errors.
  1. You’re forgetful.
Sleep loss may explain why you have a hard time remembering things. Failing to get enough sleep hinders your short-term memory.
  1. You’re struggling with depression.
Being tired can have a negative effect on your moods. It makes you more likely to feel depressed, anxious and frustrated.
  1. You’re getting sick.
Without sleep, your immune system is not at full strength. It’s harder for your body to fight off an illness.
The good news, notes Dr. Kramer, is that most of these changes are all reversible with the implementation of good sleep practices.
“Resolve to sleep well this year and you may find that the energy to exercise and the self-control for healthy eating may then more easily follow,” adds Dr. Kramer.
On average, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well-rested. Adolescents should sleep about nine hours a night, school-aged children between 10-11 hours a night and children in pre-school between 11-13 hours a night.
The AASM offers the following tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:
  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
  • Get a full night’s sleep every night.
  • Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either.
  • Avoid alcohol, foods or drinks that contain caffeine, and any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.
  • Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
  • Get up at the same time every morning.
SleepEducation.com, a Web site created by the AASM, provides information about various sleep disorders, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.
AASM is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research.
To arrange an interview with an AASM spokesperson, please contact Jim Arcuri, public relations coordinator, at (708) 492-0930, ext. 9317, or jarcuri@aasm.org.

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