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Local lifestyle columnists

Sound advice: Be sure to sleep well

By From page A2 | February 20, 2014

I planned to write only about the importance of getting enough sleep but decided to also include a bit of history about Daylight Saving Time, since this time of the year is fast approaching.

It’s very important to find ways to get more sleep. Researchers tell us that lack of sleep affects not only energy level but also mental and social functioning and can also increase diabetes risk, heart disease and other health problems.

According to a Mayo Clinic health newsletter, sleep is the word used to define a biological state in which we are quiet and relatively unresponsive to external stimuli. Sleep is regular and recurring and easily reversible, unlike a coma, for example. Most people spend about one-third of their life in a state of unconsciousness. Maybe our Congress fits this category? I just couldn’t resist this one.

Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday, March 9 and we set our clocks forward one hour. Many of us probably don’t remember when Daylight Saving Time began.

It was March 31, 1918. “Starting today, the sun will set at a later hour across the United States. This extension of daytime is not the result of some strange astronomical development but a daylight savings time measure that was signed by President Woodrow Wilson today,” the story read. “Clocks are being moved forward one hour today and they will not be set back to standard time until the end of October.”

The change was made to help the war effort by cutting electricity needs. Nevertheless, farmers vigorously opposed it because their workday did not coincide with the new daylight hour.

Britain’s fuel shortages in 1916 motivated Parliament to pass a “summer time” act and most European governments did the same and set clocks one hour ahead to make the most of the daylight time. British farmers protested that they would have to milk their cows in the dark and wait for an hour until the sun dried the dew to harvest the hay.

Benjamin Franklin called on the French to set their clocks ahead one hour in the spring and back one hour in the fall. Franklin is credited with having originated the lines, “Early to bed and early to rise,” first published in 1639. The French farmers opposed his daylight saving proposal, insisting that cows cannot change their habits. In those days, most people got around 10 hours of sleep each night. But, then, they didn’t have TV and video games, did they?

Today, as one researcher put it, “The yawning majority of us don’t get enough sleep.” According to National Sleep Foundation research, most adults should average around eight hours of sleep each night, because a good night’s sleep is the best way to “replenish our energy and enthusiasm for life.”

A very close family member rarely gets enough sleep but refuses to believe that frequent yawning, feeling out of sorts and nodding behind the wheel has anything to do with sleep deprivation.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sleep deprivation is, indeed, a serious problem. Nodding drivers at the wheel cause thousands of crashes each year and many die in those accidents.

Researchers also cite other problems associated with lack of sleep that makes us:

  • Unable to focus during the day.
  • Tired and exhausted much of the time.
  • Irritable and short-tempered.
  • Depressed or anxious.
  • More susceptible to colds, headaches or allergies.
  • Feel vulnerable and less confident.

The Tuft University Health and Nutrition Newsletter offers some moderate modifications that may help us get a better night’s sleep:

  • Check your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, as some of them contain as much caffeine as in a cup of coffee.
  • Watch the timing of meals and beverages late in the evening. Even going to bed very hungry can interfere with sleep and some doctors recommend a light snack.
  • Remove the TV from the bedroom and break the smartphone addiction.
  • Try sleeping in a cooler bedroom environment. In other words, chill out.
  • Monitor your stress level, as stress can definitely interfere with sleep.

Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of Education.

Mayrene Bates

Mayrene Bates is a trustee with the Solano County Board of Education.
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