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Originally published Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 8:04 PM

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Sleep on this latest survey about sleep

Sleep enhances safety, health and performance, but many people are too busy to stop and hear the message.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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We all need to wake up and show our natural body rhythms some respect by taking our need for sleep more seriously.

Despite years of messages about the importance of a good night’s sleep, most people still don’t get enough. We sacrifice it when we get busy, we even sometimes brag about how little we get, but missing sleep or getting poor-quality sleep is a health hazard, a risk factor for accidents of all kinds and a drain on efficiency.

We’re sleepless in Seattle and, according to a new poll, around the world. Modern life is taking a toll on sleep that requires active effort to repair, starting with awareness.

The poll I read was released Wednesday by the National Sleep Foundation, which works to improve sleep and safety, primarily through public education. The foundation surveyed the bedroom habits of people between the ages of 25 and 55 in six countries: the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

It caught my eye because I was sleepy. But I was also interested because of the push in Washington state this year to reduce incidences of impaired driving. Much of the emphasis has been on people who drive under the influence, but driving while drowsy is also a significant cause of traffic collisions.

I also thought about the safety of all the children who’ve just started walking back and forth to school again.

It can be hard to get a good night’s sleep during the school year. But without it, students’ grades suffer, parents’ work suffers and moods suffer for everyone.

Sleep deficits may help coffee sales, but that’s about it. Sleep loss contributes to depression, forgetfulness, accidents. Chronic sleeplessness is a factor in heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.

Don’t fight your body clock. The Seahawks are catching on. The football team has been holding morning practices so that players won’t doze when they open their season with an East Coast game Sunday.

The rest of us are missing the ball. According to the poll, j ust over half the people in the countries surveyed said they don’t get a good night’s sleep every night, and most said they sleep in on weekends in an attempt to make up for lost rest.

The world is becoming one in being more rushed, having less time for family, reflection, or even something so basic as sleep. And people everywhere seem to want to zone out for just a bit in compensation for all the day’s intensity.

The poll discovered one big common bedtime ritual: Most people around the world (66 percent to 80 percent) watch TV in the hour before bed. That’s not helpful.

Among the foundation’s tips for a good night’s sleep are several you’ve heard before:

Exercise regularly, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, use the bedroom only for sleep (there’s at least one exception I can think of, but not work, computing or television) and save your worries for daytime.

We ignore the advice, maybe because we think we can handle the deficits. Several studies have shown that isn’t true. Students and workers do better on the next day’s task if they have had a full night of restful sleep, even if that means a student cuts study time short.

Getting good Z’s is a better way to get A’s and a safer, healthier way to live.

Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com

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About Jerry Large

I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
jlarge@seattletimes.com | 206-464-3346

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