Initiative to Help Educate Americans About 'Sleep Smarts'

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) announced that, together with sanofi-aventis, it is launching a new campaign called Sleeping Smart, which will educate the millions of Americans who have sleep problems about the importance of a good night's sleep, proper sleep habits, help them understand the consequences of insomnia, and the safe and appropriate use of prescription sleep medications. The campaign also will motivate sleep-sufferers to talk to a healthcare professional to determine if treatment is appropriate.

As part of the campaign, results of a new survey of American adults showed that while nearly 60 percent of those at increased risk for insomnia say that their symptoms affect their daily activities at least a few days a week, only about half of those at increased risk for insomnia have actually initiated a conversation with their healthcare professional about their sleep issues.

"More often than not, sleep sufferers are hesitant to talk to their healthcare professional because of lack of information or they don't think their problem is serious enough," said Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, NSF board member; associate director, Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology; and professor, Northwestern University Institute for Neuroscience. "Sleeping Smart will address common myths and misperceptions about insomnia, sleep habits and treatment options to educate and motivate sufferers to address their sleep problems."

According to the survey:

  • More than one-third of Americans are at increased risk for insomnia.
  • While most respondents can identify the consequences of insomnia (e.g., increased risk of automotive crashes, decreased work performance, depression or mood changes) they don't have a clear understanding of what insomnia is.
  • Two-thirds of those at increased risk for insomnia don't consider themselves to have the condition, which may further perpetuate reasons for not seeking help.
  • Practicing a healthy sleep routine prior to actually getting into bed may help promote a good night's sleep. However, many people at increased risk for insomnia engage in stimulating activities an hour before getting into bed at least a few nights per week, including watching TV (90 percent); using the computer or Internet (33 percent); or doing household chores (43 percent).

"Prescription sleep aids are safe and effective when taken as prescribed, however, our survey found that 85 percent of all respondents believed that people often or sometimes misuse prescription sleep aids," said Helene A. Emsellem, MD, FAASM, medical director, The Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders, Chevy Chase, Maryland and a volunteer with the National Sleep Foundation. "It is important for patients to work with their healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment for their insomnia, including lifestyle changes, adjusting bedtime sleep routines, cognitive behavioral therapy, and/or prescription medications that help people fall and stay asleep."

As with all medications, it is important to take sleep aids only as directed by a healthcare professional. This means following his or her instructions about how to take, when to take and how long to take sleep medicine. Sleep aids should not be taken with alcohol, before driving or operating machinery, or before taking a bath or shower, among other things. Be sure you're able to devote 7 to 8 hours to sleep before being active again. Patients should consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication differently than how it is prescribed.

Tips for Sleeping Smart

  • Establish a regular bed and wake time.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly (but complete the workout at least three hours before bedtime).
  • Establish a regular relaxing "wind-down" bedtime routine.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and cool.
  • Discuss appropriate way to take any sleep aid with healthcare professional.

Are you sleeping smart? For more information, visit www.sleepingsmart.org.

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