NSF Reveals Insomnia Survey Results, Launches 'Sleeping Smart' Initiative

The National Sleep Foundation announced recently that, together with pharmaceutical company sanofi-aventis, it is launching a new campaign called Sleeping Smart designed to educate millions of Americans with sleep problems about the importance of a good night's sleep and proper sleep habits. NSF said the initiative also will help people understand the consequences of insomnia, make safe and appropriate use of prescription sleep medications, and motivate sleep-sufferers to talk to a health care professional to determine if treatment is appropriate.

As part of the campaign, NSF has released results of a new survey of American adults showing 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 health care professional about their sleep issues.

"More often than not, sleep sufferers are hesitant to talk to their health care professional because of lack of information or they don't think their problem is serious enough," said Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., NSF board member and associate director of Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology, as well as a professor at the 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, NSF said; 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).

NSF offers a number of tips for "sleeping smart," including:

  • Establish a regular bed and wake time.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Exercise regularly (but complete the workout at least 3 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 health care professional.

NSF describes those at increased risk for insomnia as people who experience at least one sleep problem (defined in the survey results as having difficulty falling asleep, being awake a lot during the night, waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep, or waking up un-refreshed despite spending adequate time in bed) every night or almost every night and report that this affects their daily activities. For more information, visit www.sleepfoundation.org.

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