March is National Sleep Awareness Month Published Feb. 26, 2018 By Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Many Airmen work hard to improve their physical fitness every day — they might go to the gym and lift weights or decide to improve their diet by eating better and cutting back on sugary sweets. March is National Sleep Awareness Month. Although eating right and working out are both avenues individuals use to maintain their health, sleep can also affect one’s overall wellness. Sleep plays a crucial role, providing time for the brain and body to rejuvenate from the previous day’s activities. Penny Hardin, 20th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Health Promotion program coordinator, said sleep deprivation can effect an individual’s ability to perform their job. “Especially for active-duty, they need to be sharp, whether physically or mentally,” said Hardin. “Sleep can definitely affect someone’s mental state, like their intelligence if they have a job such as air traffic control, as well as making them tired if they have a physical job and work on the flightline.” Failing to get enough sleep can have short- and long-term effects, reduce performance at work and stimulate irritability and depression as well as create impairment similar to intoxication. Janine Reinholtz, 20th AMDS Health Promotion registered dietitian, said sleep can also effect an individual’s hormones that regulate hunger and recommends a light snack before bed with an equal amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat to maintain proper levels. Various factors can cause difficulties falling or staying sleep, including stress, caffeine, and stimulating activities such as exercising or using electronics right before bed. Hardin recommends individuals avoid drinking alcohol right before bed, begin relaxing 30 minutes before and have a nighttime routine to help promote good sleep such as brushing their teeth, washing their face and taking a shower. “Routine is very important,” said Hardin. “It lets your body know it’s time to start winding down to go to bed.” For Airmen who work swing or mid-shift whose sleep schedules may oppose their body’s natural rhythm, Hardin recommends they take naps if needed and try their best to stick to a schedule. “There’s typically three shifts that active-duty will work,” said Hardin. “I suggest they should always have a plan for each shift, when they’re going to eat, sleep, exercise and run errands.” Other ways individuals working odd hours can improve their hours of shut-eye include blocking out light with sleeping masks or blackout drapes, keeping the room temperature at about 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit and reducing noise exposure by using white noise or earplugs. Sleep plays a crucial role in staying fit to fight, restoring depleted energy, repairing muscles and tissue, and reorganizing information in the brain. If an individual’s sleep begins interfering with their work, concentration, appetite or physical activity, Hardin recommends they make an appointment to speak to their primary care provider or the behavioral health optimization program, which can be made by contacting 803-895-2273.