- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2017

With tens of millions of Americans struggling to get enough shut-eye, sleep researchers are hoping to focus more attention on the times where we’re out of it.

Friday is the 10th annual World Sleep Day, organized by the World Sleep Society and being observed in 72 countries. With the slogan, “Sleep Soundly, Nurture Life,” the society hopes to bring awareness to the problems and health detriments associated with a lack of sleep.

“Ultimately, science has proven that sleep is the ultimate performance enhancer,” Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and a sponsor of World Sleep Day, wrote in a statement, calling sleep “the gateway through which a life of well-being must travel.”

The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates that 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. It’s estimated that half of the population over the age of 65 experience sleep problems but that it may be a natural progression of aging. The most common disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless-leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

Achieving the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep has immense health benefits, from being more alert during the day to aiding in weight loss, sleep researchers say.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says a full nights sleep promotes healthy brain function, emotional well-being, daytime performance and safety, and a host of physical benefits. “Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke,” the website states.

The World Sleep Society outlines a few steps people can take in their everyday life, including setting a fixed bedtime and waking time, investing in comfortable bedding and minimizing light and distracting noise. Before sleep, avoid caffeine for at least six hours. If you take a nap during the day, try to limit the time to be between 20 and 45 minutes.

Children should go to bed at the same time every night and before 9 pm. Much of the advice for quality sleep for adults also applies to children: Make the sleep area inviting, comfortable and dark, and avoid heavy meals and vigorous activity close to bedtime. Electronics, including TVs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones should be put away well before bedtime.

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