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Get more zzz's, health experts say during Sleep Awareness Month

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Eric Tegethoff

(Oregon News Service) March is Sleep Awareness Month and health experts say Americans are not getting enough of it.

United Health Foundation data found more than 32 percent of those surveyed said they got fewer than seven hours of sleep.

Dr. Kimberly Hutchison, associate professor of neurology and sleep medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, said our culture devalues sleep, with the perception people who get the sleep they need are lazy or not working hard enough.

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"Because we live in this accomplishment-driven culture, it results in people sacrificing sleep in order to get other things done," Hutchison explained.

Hutchison pointed out sleep is as important for our health as the food we eat or exercising. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is seven to nine hours in a 24-hour period. For teens and adolescents, it can be as much as 10 hours. For older adults, the number is closer to seven.

Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, said one of the best ways to ensure you are getting enough sleep is to have a regular schedule.

"That's something that's really important, just having a routine, whether it's brushing your teeth, changing into pajamas, doing some kind of activity before you go to sleep," Johar outlined. "Yoga, listening to music, reading, things of that sort, setting your alarm for the same time every day."

Johar added people should see a health professional for medical issues such as insomnia or sleep apnea.

"Sometimes there may be underlying medical problems that are making it difficult for you to sleep," Johar noted. "The other thing that's really important that people don't realize is how much stress and behavioral-health issues can factor into their sleep."