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Survey Shows Americans Ignore Steps To Improve Sleep and Mood

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In our 24-7 society, exhausted Americans seem to be willing to try almost anything to cope with sleep-deprivation and emotional stress; however, they may be missing some of the most obvious solutions. According to the findings of the 2006 Better Sleep Month survey, Americans may be turning to “quick fixes” in lieu of focusing on lifestyle changes and potential long-term solutions to improve their sleep. The annual Better Sleep Month survey revealed that more than half of Americans are unlikely to take some basic steps to improve the quality of their sleep: • 51 percent are not likely to alter their bedtime routine for a better night’s sleep. Modifications could include eliminating televisions in bedrooms and not exercising or eating near bedtime. • 52 percent are not likely to eliminate negative behaviors that contribute to poor sleep. These include reducing caffeine, alcohol or nicotine intake. • 66 percent are not likely to evaluate their mattress for comfort and support and, if needed, consider buying a new one. Catch 22: Sleep and Emotional Well-Being It is well-known that sleep problems can be a key sign of depression. What people may not realize is that the reverse is also true — sleep disorders can actually trigger mood disorders and depression. As researchers learn more about the underlying cyclical connection between sleep and our mental health, the important balance is becoming even more apparent. For this reason, the Better Sleep Council and National Mental Health Association unite this May – recognized both as Better Sleep Month and Mental Health Month – to issue a challenge to Americans to mind their mental health and make sleep a priority. “Being healthy doesn’t pertain just to our physical health -- mental and physical well-being go hand-in-hand,” said Cynthia Wainscott, acting president and CEO of the National Mental Health Association. “We know that sleep plays a vital role in our overall health and continue to learn how changes in sleep habits may contribute to changes in your mental health. For this reason alone, quality sleep is central to any healthy lifestyle.” The Better Sleep Month survey found that better sleep did result in better mood among respondents. When asked to rate their sleep quality, quantity, and overall mood over the course of one week, people who obtained seven or more hours per night were more likely to rate their general mood as excellent (57 percent), as opposed to those receiving an average of six hours of sleep or less (45 percent). “Sleep is an active process that results from change in the balance of major neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine that, among others, are related to mood and other cognitive/emotion behaviors," said Amy Wolfson, PhD, sleep expert, psychologist, professor and author of A Woman’s Book of Sleep. “So it is not surprising that significant interactions occur between sleep and depression and/or depressed mood.” America’s Wake-Up Call Americans are becoming more aware of the link between sleep and health. This has been evidenced by new medical studies, the onslaught of sleep-related news coverage, as well as the sharp increase in prescription sleep-aids and sleep labs. Even hotels are paying attention to the importance of sleep, as more and more travelers base travel decisions on the promise of a luxurious sleep experience. It appears that sleep (or lack there of) is finally receiving its time in the spotlight. However, regardless of the growing dialogue on the long-term health implications of sleep deprivation, ranging from increased risk of heart disease and obesity to decreased immune response and mental functioning, the issue is still pervasive. The 2006 Better Sleep Council poll found that 41 percent of respondents are getting six hours of sleep or less each night, an insufficient amount of sleep for most adults. “In our culture, we are constantly inundated with long-term health concerns which can overwhelm people, perhaps even leading them to ignore warning signs altogether,” said Dr. Wolfson. “However, sleepdeprivation impacts our everyday life, from increased risk of car accidents, to reduced memory and job performance, to depressed mood; the results go beyond long-term, they are serious and immediate.” Back to Basics: The Fundamentals of Better Sleep If experiencing trouble sleeping over a period of time, Americans report that they are most likely to change their sleeping schedule (51 percent) and build in time for more sleep (56 percent) to improve their sleep. However, this may not be a viable first-step solution, according to many experts. More sleep doesn’t necessarily mean better, especially if underlying factors that contribute to poor sleep, such as an inadequate sleep environment or sleep-depriving behaviors, are not properly addressed. It may just mean that you end up tossing and turning in your bed for a longer time. “The survey results show that people overlook some of the most obvious components of quality sleep,” said Nancy Shark, executive director of the Better Sleep Council. “Take for example the reluctance, even if needed, to replace an old mattress (66 percent say they are not likely). The mattress is literally the foundation of our sleep. Comfort and support aside, we spend an average of four entire months every year entirely on our bed. Given that kind of usage, your sleep surface cannot be an afterthought.” Accordingly, additional consumer data from 2005 indicates that nearly half of Americans (47 percent) keep mattresses longer than many experts recommend. “As a rule of thumb, after five-to seven years of use, it’s a good time to evaluate your sleep set,” adds Shark. “You can get used to a bed long after it stops providing you with the optimal comfort and support you need.” Five Tips to Improve Sleep and Mood In the 2006 Better Sleep Month survey, only 25 percent of respondents rated the quality and quantity of their sleep as excellent. That means that 75 percent need to take action to improve their sleep. The Better Sleep Council and the National Mental Health Association provide the following advice for Americans this May: 1.) Treat your body right. Good nutrition makes a difference. Get adequate rest, exercise, and balance work and play. For the best sleep, avoid exercising or eating near bed time including limiting intake or avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol -- they all interfere with restful sleep. 2.) Schedule time for sleep. Just like we manage our many ‘to-dos’, sleep is an appointment that you can not miss. When the quality of your sleep improves, so does your mood, thus the quality of your life. Tonight’s sleep can determine how your tomorrow will be, so it should be top of any daily agenda. 3.) Create a sleep sanctuary. The best sleep environment isuncluttered, dark, quiet, and cool (ideal temperature is around 65 degrees). Your bed is not a desk, dining room table or a couch, so it’s best to turn off the television and keep the food and laptop out of the bed. Most importantly, always sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. 4.) Ease your anxious mind. Wind down before bed. Take a bath, meditate, do whatever you need to do to relax and wipe away theday’s stress. If you find your mind racing while trying to go to sleep, keep a pad of paper next to your bed and jot down what’s on your mind. If you find yourself unable to sleep after 20 minutes, get out of the bed, go into another room and engage in a calming activity until you feel ready to sleep. 5.) Take it Day by Day. Changing your schedule and attitude about sleep isn’t going to happen overnight. It requires a lifestyle changes, dedication, and practice. Just like improving any aspects of our health, making sleep a priority and minding your mental health takes time. Remember that the return on investment will be a happier, healthier life. Should sleep and emotional problems persist, you should seek help from a health professional. For more information on Better Sleep Month or to download the Better Sleep Guide for simple solutions that can help improve the quality of your life by improving the quality of your sleep, please visit www.bettersleep.org. For more information on Mental Health Month or for mental health information and referrals, please visit www.nmha.org or call 800-969-NMHA (6642). Dr. Amy Wolfson, sleep expert, psychologist, professor and author of A Woman’s Book of Sleep and is available for comment regarding this survey and the important role sleep plays in the quality of one’s life. Please contact Jeanette Casselano at 202.828.8833 or casselaj@fleishman.com for more information. About BSC: Established in 1979, the Better Sleep Council (BSC) is a non-profit organization supported by the mattress industry. The BSC is devoted to educating the public about the importance of sleep to good health and quality of life and about the value of the sleep system and sleep environment in pursuit of a good night's sleep. About NMHA: The National Mental Health Association is the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health and mental illness. With more than 340 affiliates nationwide, NMHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research and service. Survey findings are taken from a survey of 1,013 people, conducted by Caravan® Survey from January 20 – 23, 2006. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

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