As reported by the New London Day, March 8, 2008.

For Some, 'Spring Ahead' Can Be Tiring Experience

Modern America's Failing to Get Enough Proper Sleep

By Judy Benson

At 2 a.m. Sunday, Daylight-Saving time begins and the growing numbers of sleep-deprived Americans will be even more droopy-eyed than usual as they start the new week.

The time change, since last year falling three weeks earlier in the calendar thanks to an act of Congress, “is a really difficult adjustment” for some people, especially those who already aren't getting enough sleep, said Dr. Jennifer Kanaan, assistant professor of medicine and a sleep expert at the University of Connecticut.

“As a society, we're getting 20 percent less sleep than the generation before did,” Kanaan said. “In this high-paced, high-pressure society, people are constantly trying to shortchange the amount of sleep they're getting.”

For most people, it will take a few days to reset their biological clocks to the time change, said Dr. Daniel Moalli, neurologist and director of the sleep laboratory at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London. A few tricks can help the transition, like exposure to bright light upon waking at the same time as before the change. But in the meantime, there seems to be a cavalier attitude about sleep that denies how important it is to overall health, he said.

“People just practice poor sleep hygiene,” he said. “It affects your concentration and you have more of a tendency to get angry. Most Americans are getting six to six and a half hours a night, and you really need eight hours of good quality sleep.”

L.A. Wayman of Groton, a Navy instructor, photographer and father of three sons, has the type of sleep habits experts lament. An early riser, Wayman typically sleeps about five hours per night. He leads a busy life, he said, and would rather be doing something than sleeping.

“I don't have much spare time,” he said. “But it definitely does catch up with you.”

When he starts feeling overly exhausted, Wayman said, he loads up on salad and fruit juice to boost his energy.

For Wayman's wife, Kristine, lack of sufficient sleep has been more troublesome. For years, she said, she got about four hours a night of fitful sleep. She tried various remedies in a search of a full night of rest — meditation, over-the-counter drugs, herbal teas, to name a few.

Six months ago, a doctor prescribed Ambien, and the medication has finally given her the eight hours of uninterrupted rest that had been so elusive. She feels more energetic during the day, she said.

“I was always tired, dragged down before,” she said. “Now it's much better.”

A study released last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows increasing numbers of Americans have similar stories. Equally worrisome to sleep experts are the consequences.

According to the study, 10 percent of adults are not getting enough sleep, and the numbers of people getting six hours or less of sleep per night has increased over the last decade. Nationwide, according to the CDC, 50 million to 70 million people suffer from chronic sleep problems. That's bad news for the overall health of Americans.

Kanaan said lack of sufficient sleep leads to depression — anti-depressant drugs are sometimes prescribed to help with both conditions — as well as poor performance at school or on the job and increased risk of diabetes, among other problems. Chronic headaches and memory problems are also often caused by sleep problems, added Moalli.

It's also a safety issue. Each year, said Kanaan, about 100,000 car accidents are caused by sleepy drivers. And too many people who wake up in the middle of the night do the opposite of what they should to get themselves back to sleep, she said. They turn on the television, go on the Internet or clean the house.

“That activates your brain again,” she said.

Instead, Kanaan recommends keeping lights low and reading “something boring, like the tax code or a book you've read a few times already.”

Moalli said lack of sufficient sleep also leads to memory problems. People who persistently don't get enough sleep, he said, may often find themselves losing their keys, forgetting names or being unable to recall what they just read or learned in class.

“During sleep, our recent memories, which are fragile, are converted to permanent ones,” he said.

Audrey Babbitt, a 67-year-old Lisbon resident, is still searching for a remedy to her chronic sleep problems that began about 10 years ago during a particularly stressful period in her life. Babbitt, who is retired, sleeps about four hours a night and never falls into that deep state of REM (rapid eye movement) that doctors say is crucial to complete rest.

“It's staying asleep that's hard,” she said.

Babbitt was diagnosed a few years ago with sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing is interrupted repeatedly during sleep, but she found the breathing mask and attached CPAP machine prescribed by her doctor uncomfortable. The condition also prevents her from being able to take sleeping pills, she said.

“I'm tired all the time,” she said. “Now that I'm retired and I have time to do the things I want to do, like horseback riding and gardening or just walking, I can't because I have no energy.”

Information on the CDC's Sleep and Sleep Disorders program can be found at www.cdc.gov/sleep