A Prescription for Sleep at Wellness Wednesdays

October 18, 2023

It’s the one thing that so many of us don’t seem to prioritize — sleep!

“Sleep is the third pillar of health that doesn’t get enough attention,’’ Dr. Laura Barger, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “You hear it all the time, ‘Sleep is for the weak,’ or ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’

“Well, if you don’t sleep, you’ll be dead sooner.’’

For 1 1/2 hours Wednesday (Oct. 18), Barger stressed the benefits of sleep as October’s featured guest at the Wellness Wednesdays’ monthly women’s support group at the Ernest T. Ford Recreation Center. Facilitated by Alexis Harvey of the SAY Detroit Family Health Clinic, the program was highlighted by full participation of the group, which numbered nearly 30.

“Raise your hand if you didn’t get enough sleep last night,’’ Barger asked the crowd, nodding when more than half raised their hands. “Our culture doesn’t prioritize sleep. There are even ads aimed at our kids — ‘Sleep Less, Game More.’’’

When Barger shared how studies show that 100 years ago, children were sleeping two hours longer per night than they do today, the women in attendance gasped.

Research shows that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but one third of Americans get less than six.

The impact of racial disparities and inequities on African Americans’ sleep and well-being were also discussed among the group when a participant told a story about some of her sleep-deprived nights.

“I live off the Davison Freeway, and the noise level is so high that some nights it wakes me from sleep,’’ the participant said. “I’ve been trying to have them get a barrier up along the highway like they do in the suburbs’’ to keep the noise level down, but to no avail.

A cool, dark and quiet room is best for a good sleep, Barger said, along with eliminating technology — especially cell phones — one hour before bedtime.

“Get your cell phone out of the room, and charge it out of the room,’’ Barger said. “You can go to CVS and buy an alarm clock.’’

A Troy native and Michigan State graduate, Barger said she learned about Wellness Wednesdays via SAY Detroit’s monthly newsletter.

“I grew up reading Mitch Albom’s sports columns,’’ she said of the author and philanthropist, who founded SAY Detroit in 2006. “When I saw a story in the newsletter about nutrition, I said, ‘I’m going to invite myself to Wellness Wednesdays and talk about sleep.’’’

Wellness Wednesdays’ next session is Nov. 15 at the Ford Rec Center. Space is limited to the first 25 people who register by calling 586-345-0225. A light “Thanksgiving’’ lunch will be served. The topic is about celebrating gratitude and looking to the future as a community.