March 6, 2015

Time to “spring forward” but it may take the spring from your step

Clock ForwardNebraskans will need to set their clocks forward an hour before heading to bed this Saturday night as we return to Daylight Saving Time. For some people, it’ll be a very tough adjustment to lose an hour of sleep.

Dr. Stephen Grant, a board-certified sleep physician, says most of his patients get six to seven hours of sleep a night.

“The bell curve shows a median value of eight but we know that 50% of people need more than eight hours and 50% of people can get away with less than eight hours,” Grant says. “If patients are sleepy during the day or require naps, they are clearly sleep insufficient.”

One technique which he suggests may help make losing an hour of sleep less difficult is to gradually ease into the time change.

“Instead of going to bed at maybe ten o’clock at night, going to bed at 9:45, then 9:30, then 9:15 and then 9 o’clock in the seven-to-ten day period leading up to the time change,” Grant says. “It makes the adjustment a lot easier for patients.”

Studies find more than a third of adults don’t always get the amount of sleep they need to feel their best.

“I’m always surprised,” Grant says. “Some people can do very well with time changes and perhaps those are people who do well with jet lag or traveling into time zones, and some individuals really struggle with time change.”

There are about 80 different types of sleep disorders, the most common of which include: insomnia, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and apnea, where a person’s airways narrow or collapse during sleep. Grant says the majority of his time is spent with patients who have apnea, or sleep disorder breathing.

He says the bad habits may have started six months ago.

“Patients when they fall back in the time change around fall, may notice that when it’s time to go to bed, they’re not sleepy,” Grant says. “They’re an hour earlier than what they should be and they may spend a lot of time in bed, awake. That can set the tone for some poor sleep hygiene or for some habits that may develop that can lead to difficulties falling asleep.”

This is Sleep Awareness Week. A new poll from the National Sleep Foundation finds pain, stress and poor health all correlate to shorter sleep durations and worse sleep quality for millions of Americans.


Winter weather provides harsh test for elderly drivers

JackknifedNebraska’s population is among the nation’s oldest and some motorists continue to drive on the state’s roads well into their 90s, which for some, may pose a risk to themselves and others.

Nick Jarmusz, at AAA, says family members need to be direct with their elders when safety is clearly becoming an issue.

“It’s important for families to remember that the issue isn’t necessarily driving itself,” Jarmusz says. “The issue is about mobility and independence.”

Older drivers themselves can often be the best judges of when it’s time to give up the keys, knowing their personal challenges with vision, hearing, mobility, reaction times and more.

“Self-assessment is a critical part to this,” Jarmusz says. “We actually have a lot of resources on the topic for senior drivers at a website we’ve set up. The site,, includes suggestions for having that difficult talk with an older driver.

“We recommend families avoid the intervention-style or anything that can come across as overly confrontational and make elderly relatives feel like they’re being backed into a corner or being talked down to,” he says.

While the conversation may be uncomfortable, it should be driven by compassion and a concern for everyone’s health and safety.

“It doesn’t have to be a binary discussion, you know, you either have your keys and are driving or you’re not,” Jarmusz says. “There’s a lot of space in between there to self-regulate or to set up parameters for when it is and is not acceptable to drive.”

A national AAA survey found nearly 90% of motorists who are 65 years old and older suffer from health issues that may affect driving safely.

A U.S. Census Bureau report says nearly 14% of Nebraska’s population is at least 65 years old, ranking the state 11th oldest in the nation. Florida tops the list.


Study gauges impact of Nebraska’s “safety net” programs

AECF photo

AECF photo

The private philanthropy group that puts out the “Kids Count” survey every year is releasing a new report detailing the state-by-state impact of so-called “safety net” government programs on children.

Laura Speer, with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says their findings indicate programs like food stamps and housing subsidies are significantly improving lives in Nebraska and nationwide.

“We looked at the child poverty rate which we know is one of the most critical indicators we check,” Speer says, “not only because it has a major impact on kids, it can affect their health and their educational achievement, but really has an impact on the country as a whole.”

In Nebraska, she says the impact of government safety net programs is very evident.

“Without any government intervention, about 22% of children in Nebraska would be living below the poverty line,” Speer says. “With intervention, it’s 11%, so, the rate has actually been cut in half in the state of Nebraska. That means about 48,000 children in the Nebraska were lifted above the poverty line.”

In addition to food stamps, government interventions being gauged by the report include the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit parents can claim annually on their tax returns.

She admits the findings aren’t a big surprise, however: “It’s important to know that and to understand that those programs are making a difference and they need to be sustained,” Speer says. “Also, we know these programs are helping families keep their heads above water and filling the gap that low-wage jobs are leaving for families to make ends meet.”

Speer is the foundation’s associate director of advocacy and public policy.

See the full report at the Annie E. Casey Foundation website.


Lincoln legislator targets school budget issue as “priority” bill

Sen. Roy Baker

Sen. Roy Baker

State Senator Roy Baker of Lincoln is apparently the first legislator to name his priority bill for this 90-day session.

Senator Baker, who represents southern Lancaster County and all of Gage County, has chosen LB 431, which would adjust the formal bid process threshold school districts face on construction or repair projects. The current level at which a formal bid process must be used is $40,000.

“That $40,000 figure was set in 1979,” Baker says. “(The bill) would bring it up to $100,000. The exact translation from 1979 is more like $130,000, so it doesn’t even bring it up to the level of the purchasing power of 1979.”

Baker says the legislation has a built-in measure that would call for a reset every five years to boost the figure alloting for the cost of living.

Each state senator is allowed to designate one bill they sponsor as their priority, or can name another senator’s measure as a priority bill.

Baker said naming LB 431 as his priority early, should increase chances of moving quickly toward passage. The bill has been advanced from committee to the first round of floor debate.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice


Crash near Cozad claims three lives, injures five

Police car lightsA two-vehicle crash near Cozad last night killed three people and injured five.

The Nebraska State Patrol says the driver of a Jeep that was westbound on Interstate 80 lost control, rolled in the median and hit an eastbound car.

The driver of the Jeep was a teenager. He and two of his passengers were killed. They’re identified as: 16-year-old Anthony Hill, 41-year-old Regina Hill and 67-year-old Dennis Alexander, all of Cozad. Two other passengers in the Jeep survived.

Troopers say no one in the Jeep was belted in, while everyone in the car was wearing seat belts.

Those involved in the crash were being treated at both Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney and Lexington Regional Medical Center in Lexington.

The crash happened about 6:30 last night, just east of Cozad near the Dawson County exit.

The westbound lanes of I-80 were closed for about 90 minutes, while the eastbound lanes were closed more than three hours.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.