ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Sleep is a very important thing often taken for granted. When we sleep, our body heals damaged cells, boosts the immune system, recharges our hearts and cardiovascular systems and much more.
The 97th Medical Group strives to help encourage the Airmen of Altus AFB get the sleep they need so they can be prepared for the next day and stay mission-ready. They do this by providing services and information about sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene is a combination of different practices and habits necessary for good sleep quality, resulting in full daytime awareness. Healthy sleep is important to both mental and physical health and can help improve the overall quality of life.
“The jobs we do as Airmen directly impact others,” said U.S. Air Force Kamy Jenkins, the 97th MDG Mental Health Flight Command Chief. “We are usually either managing aircraft or Airmen, and therefore it is important that we get adequate sleep to keep not only ourselves, but the ones that depend on us safe as well.”
One of the most important and most commonly misinterpreted sleep habits is the amount of sleep received each night. Too little or too much sleep can affect mood, alertness and performance.
The use of technology, consumption of caffeine or nicotine and eating unhealthy foods right before bed can have the ability to disrupt the sleep cycle and decrease the amount of sleep received each night as well.
“Lack of sleep can lead to a lot of bad things,” said Jenkins. “It can start as mild symptoms such as increased irritability, poor attention/concentration, lack of patience and drowsiness. On the severe end of the spectrum, chronic lack of sleep can lead to hallucinations and impaired functioning that is similar and just as unsafe as alcohol intoxication.”
One good sleep habit the 97th MDG stresses is establishing a sleeping schedule and allowing the body to get into a routine. A warm bath or shower, meditation and light stretching are simple things that can help the body recognize it is time for bed. When the body recognizes it is time to settle down, the process of falling asleep can become easier.
“Have a routine," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Caleb Shepard, a Clinical Psychologist at the 97th MDG. "Our bodies respond to being on a schedule and it is usually aligned with our circadian rhythm, or hormone cycle that promotes sleep. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time. It’s helpful to keep your routine the same before going to bed [e.g. brushing teeth, reading, etc.]. It signals to our brains that it is time for sleep.”
The 97th MDG Mental Health Clinic providers are all trained on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia and discuss sleep hygiene on a daily basis with patients. They help keep Airmen aware of the risks associated with lack of sleep and the importance of a good night's sleep.
“The MHC can treat mild sleep concerns by educating members about healthy sleep habits, and we treat those with more severe conditions,” said Shepard. “If someone is struggling with sleep, reach out to the MHC to obtain education that can assist. Seek help early in order to prevent sleep problems from becoming worse.”
The 97th MDG constantly keeps Airmen aware of the possible risks of losing sleep and its effects on daily activities. A good night’s sleep helps keep Airmen of the Mighty 97th Air Mobility Wing mentally and physically ready to accomplish the mission.