Amanda Lacie, manager at Cherokee Tobacco, takes a stretch during a brief break at work. Lacie is no stranger to long hours and fatigue.

It’s that time of day again. Lunch is over, you’re back at your desk, the newness of the day has long since hit its stride, and ...

... zzzzzzz ...

Whoa! Your head snaps back, your eyes fly open, and you realize you’ve committed the cardinal office sin: You’ve dozed off.

Relax. According to a recent study by the National Sleep Foundation, you’re not the only one who has a hard time staying awake in the middle of the afternoon.

In its 2008 “Sleep In America” poll, the NSF found many Americans are working longer hours, taking more work home with them, and are losing sleep worrying about work, which leads to a tired, sleep-deprived workforce.

In its press release issued last week, the NSF noted 63 percent of poll respondents indicated being more tired, but somehow found the stamina to stick it out at work without stimulants. Thirty-two percent said they often relied on caffeine to get them through the day.

Sherida Bear, manager of a local EZ-Mart, falls in with the group who sleeps little, but doesn’t rely on caffeine. Bear gets up every morning at 4:30, and rarely hits the sheets before midnight.

“I’m usually up late washing clothes, or finding something to watch on TV,” said Bear. “I’ve never been one to sleep a lot.”

While Bear seems to have little problem surviving on three or four hours of sleep per night, the NSF poll respondents say lack of sleep has affected some aspect of their lives. Twenty-nine percent indicated they’d fallen asleep or became sleepy at work in the past month; 36 percent reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving; and 20 percent have found they’re less interested in sex.

“Nearly 50 million Americans chronically suffer from sleep problems and disorders that affect their careers, their personal relationships and safety on our roads,” said Darrel Drobnich, NSF acting CEO, in a press release.

“Longer work days and more access to colleagues and the workplace through the Internet and other technology appear to be causing Americans to get less sleep. Reciprocally, the effects of sleep loss on work performance are costing U.S. employers tens of billions of dollars a year in lost productivity. It’s time for American workers and employers to make sleep a priority.”

Many people who have hectic work schedules often try to make up for lost sleep over the weekend, according to the study. Again, Bear strays from the norm.

“Sunday is my only day off, and I still get up at 5 a.m.,” she said. “It’s the one day a week when everybody else sleeps in, and I really enjoy having the peace and quiet all to myself.”

Bear shares her home with a husband and six other family members, including two small children. Her husband is finds himself at a disadvantage when it comes getting the appropriate amount of sleep, as he works swing shifts, which vary from week to week.

“Thomas really has a hard time getting his rest, because of the kids,” she said. “Still yet, he does a lot of the ‘taking care’ of things for me when he’s there.”

Often, college students are casualties of sleep deprivation, keeping late hours and rising early for classes. Judy Lowrey, retired NSU professor, has experienced sleepy students first-hand.

“Since I taught, I had to be awake the whole time,” said Lowrey. “My students, however, had real problems staying awake for early classes and for 1 p.m. classes. Their tummies were full, the rooms were warm and sleep deprivation was catching up with them.”

According to the NSF information, some employers allow napping at work, with more than one third of respondents saying they felt safe taking a quick doze during a break on the job. Another 26 percent said they’d take advantage of a break-time nap if they thought it wasn’t against company policy.

Bear doesn’t care for naps, and wouldn’t take one even if she could while working.

“It doesn’t take much to get moving and get a second wind,” said Bear. “I’ll get up, clean the lot, stock shelves or finish paperwork. I hate naps. If I’m at home and actually take a nap, I’ll just stay in bed until the next morning. I might wake up, but I don’t get up.”

Lowrey believes sleepiness at work has more to do with the type of career a person has.

“People who sit at desks, work on computers, are solitary in the office, suffer more,” she said. “Noise, interaction and challenges keep you awake.”

Americans find a variety of ways to deal with mid-afternoon doldrums, usually in the form of quick pick-me-ups, like coffee or sugar. According to the poll, 58 percent said they’d resort to drinking an extra cup of coffee or soda; 38 percent said they preferred foods high in sugar or carbohydrates; and 5 percent opted for “No-Doz”-type medications.

“Getting sleepy in the afternoon is not a daily occurrence for me, but it does happen from time to time,” said Louise Micolites. “When it does happen, the computer screen just makes it worse, and I have to do something else! Loud music is a help, but my No. 1 pick-me-up is a trip to Starbucks.”

Research indicates people who continually deprive themselves of the appropriate amount of sleep - anywhere from eight to 10 hours per night - will accumulate a what’s known as “sleep debt.”

While it may take some time to feel the effects, like monetary debt, sleep debt will catch up with a person and can have troublesome effects.

“I’ve never been one to sleep much,” said Bear. “But it does catch up with me. Sometimes it even makes me sick to my stomach.”

Other word-related results of sleep deprivation include slowed reaction times, an inability to process or respond to ongoing events, poor logic or judgment, and difficulty concentrating.

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