- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2000

The venerable Benjamin Franklin had the right idea when he wrote, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Unfortunately, according to the National Sleep Foundation, one out of three American adults lose more than 20 hours of sleep each month leading to increased highway fatalities, lack of productivity and general grumpiness.
This nonprofit group stays awake at nights trying to help the average human get a better night's sleep. So, before nodding off at a computer terminal, take a look at its Web site, loaded with ways to get an extra 40 winks.

The National Sleep Foundation

Site address:www.sleepfoundation.org

Creator:

The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in the District, promotes public understanding of sleep and sleep disorders. The foundation also supports sleep-related education, research and advocacy to improve public health and safety.
Established in 1990, the group relies on corporate and individual donations, and partnerships with corporations and government, to fund its many educational and research programs.

Creator quotable:

"The NSF is devoted to improving public health and safety by educating Americans about the essential role of healthy, sufficient sleep for optimum mental and physical function," says Kierstan Boyd, communications manager for the National Sleep Foundation.
"We accomplish this mission by teaching the public about the importance of sufficient sleep and the dangers of unrecognized, untreated sleep disorders, and through funding sleep research and advocating for sleep-friendly public policy," she says.

Word from the Webwise:

The National Sleep Foundation's site may cause some visitors to doze off due to a bit of blandness. The primarily text-heavy creation uses drab color schemes, boring illustrations and limited navigability in presenting some very important information such as the report "Helping Yourself to a Good Night's Sleep."
Located under the "Publications" section and with a link from the National Sleep Awareness Week page, the report concisely outlines ways to get the most out of a nighttime snooze. Everything from wearing ear plugs to fluid intake to proper humidity is discussed. Writers and reviewers credits are listed at the bottom of the page.
For the first-time visitor, I suggest starting at the "Press Archives" to get a quick overview on any new developments coming out of the foundation. Most releases are accompanied by links that send visitors all over the site to interesting pockets of information.
For example, a release titled "Time Limits in Rest Areas Put Tired Drivers Back on the Road" discusses Virginia's two-hour limit at rest areas and contains a link to "Facts About Drowsy Drivers." Here, I learned 100,000 accidents occur nationwide each year due to sleepiness, the profile of those who have a tendency to nod off at the wheel and NSF's suggestions to stop the problem.
A link off of this page, "Wake Up" put me at one of the more colorful reports on the site.
"Wake Up" uses cute, cartoony illustrations to guide visitors through a large undertaking, looking at driving and dozing. Areas of interest include a quiz, "How Safe a Sleeperare You," and tips for taking a long road trip.
The little bit of illustrated color bursts really livened up the report. I suggest the NSF use this approach on some of its other longer reports and get rid of the generic clip art.
Another useful section, "Sleep Disorders," looks at the varied sleep problems effecting the general populace. The page basically lists links around the site, culled from the "Publications" and "Press Archives" sections, which examine topics such as jet lag, insomnia and the bizarre world of narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy, a neurological and genetic-based disorder, causes an individual to fall asleep without warning and can lead to potentially dangerous consequences. Treatments range from changes in diet to prescription drugs to controlled napping.
One final stop for troubled sleepers, "Sleep Services," features an interactive U.S. map to find health care providers and experts committed to promoting healthy sleep habits and helping individuals with sleep disorders. The page also includes access to a list of centers accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Don't miss:

Visitors to the NSF site will want to click on the "Sleep IQ Test" located on the front page to find out what they do not know about slumber land. Using efficient pop-up menus to reveal correct answers, the quiz offers 12 true or false questions hoping to explain topics such as "if the human body ever adjusts to night shift work" or "if one's brain ever rests."

Ease of use:

I found myself wandering aimlessly way too many times in this site for me to recommend it as an efficient cyber stop. A search engine and site map would go a long way to alleviating the confusion. I did learn a tremendous amount about sleep, but someone looking for specific information may get frustrated.

Information grade: B

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com).

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