Science and Tech


World Sleep Day raises awareness of the importance of sleep health

Across the world, people are tired. On World Sleep Day, one new survey across 17 countries shows many are chronically underslept.
Posted at 7:42 PM, Mar 15, 2024

Sleep problems following when we spring forward in March can last far beyond just a day to weeks, or even months. What can you do to improve your sleep this World Sleep Day?

Only 16% of people in a new global survey say they get a good night's sleep each night of the week. 

Japan, the U.K., New Zealand and Australia reported the worst sleep. U.S. News & World Report's 2024 State of Sleep shows 21% of Americans rarely or never wake up feeling well rested. When it comes to sleep, the National Sleep Foundation says get it when you can. 

"There is a positive effect of making up for a small amount of sleep on the weekends, maybe an hour or two. Trying to make up for a large deficit that's accumulated over the course of an entire week on two days, is unlikely to be completely effective," said Joseph Dzierzewski, research and scientific affairs VP of the National Sleep Foundation.

Talk to your doctor first before you turn to medication or sleep aids. We can quickly build a tolerance or feel groggy the next day. 

Melatonin is a hormone our body makes to tell the brain sleep-time is near. It's also sometimes used as a supplement to help sleep. Doctors urge caution, especially with young children. Dr. Jennifer Wheeler has seen a rise in the number of children coming into her hospital for what she calls melatonin overdose.  

"Kids are coming in, you know, with terrified parents because their kids aren't acting right. They're altered, they're unable to wake up, you know, they're vomiting, they have diarrhea, they have lots of agitation," said Wheeler. 

FDA regulation of melatonin supplements is not as rigorous as it is with drugs. A 2023 analysis of 25 different kinds of melatonin gummies found most were inaccurately labeled in terms of dosage, with some supplements having up to 347% of the melatonin listed on the label. 

New data from the National Sleep Foundation found about 1 in 5 teens reported taking sleep medication at least once a week, and 4 out of 5 teens say they don't get enough sleep. Above all, talk to your doctor about any aid before taking and only after trying good sleep habits first, like no screens in bed and steady sleep and wake times. 

Is melatonin safe for kids?
The label for a bottle of melatonin pills

Is melatonin safe for kids?

Melatonin is a hormone the body makes to tell the brain that sleep-time is near. It is also a supplement in chewable tablets, gummies, and capsules.