Posted On July 1, 2014 at 10:51 am in Uncategorized
I RUN MY OWN ARCHITECTURAL FIRM, AND–THIS MAY surprise you–most of my clients are government agencies. My experience, and that of many other small-business people I know, demonstrates that there are more opportunities to get government work than a lot of people realize. Follow along as I reveal how to navigate the ins and outs of obtaining your own contracts for projects at the local, state, and federal government levels.
First off, consider this: Government agencies provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, recreation, education, training, research, transportation, and environmental services year-round. They buy a variety of goods and consulting services, such as architectural, engineering, construction, maintenance, data processing, desktop publishing, management, health care, photography, video, graphic arts, and writing.
Even as governments reduce budgets, their need for uninterrupted services continues, and a greater share of the work is being done by fewer public employees. Opportunities are increasingly emerging for qualified businesses to fill the gap, resulting in more contracts being farmed out to the private sector. So whatever work you do, you can probably uncover contracting opportunities with some government entity.
Where to Start some consultants say the secret of getting government work lies in targeted marketing and knowing how to fill out volumes of paperwork. In contrast, my government colleagues and clients agree that to get selected–both the first time and repeatedly–businesses of all sizes must focus on delivering high-quality service and meeting budgets and schedules.
The first step in finding these opportunities is to identify the agencies that purchase the services you offer. State and city governments generally have a department of economic development to encourage small businesses and to coordinate minority- and women-owned business enterprise (M/WBE) programs. Telephone directories often list government agencies in a special section.
When an agency has a project or contract to award, it issues a Request for Proposal, commonly called an RFP. Public announcements for RFPs occasionally appear in newspapers and trade magazines as legal notices or classified ads. Rather than relying on such tiny ads, however, the best way to track opportunities is to subscribe to publications that announce upcoming projects.
For example, the United States Department of Commerce publishes the Commerce Business Daily (CBD), a daily newspaper that lists federal government opportunities in more than 100 categories. A weekly version of the CBD, put
out by the United Communications Group, can be customized to five categories of your choice. The American Institute of Architects, for instance, offers the CBD as an online service, enabling architects to access federal design opportunities by category and region.
At the state level, to use an example I’m familiar with, the New York State Contract Reporter lists state contracts worth more than $5,000, except for the city and state universities, which start at $20,000. By New York law, every state entity must publish notice of upcoming bids in the Reporter, which is available by subscription and lists 27 contract categories.
When scanning these publications, read all the sections that apply to your business, since categories often overlap. I’ve noted several unusual opportunities from unexpected sources, such as the New York City Transit Authority seeking scriptwriters for radio spots as well as writers and graphic artists for its brochures, subway maps, and print ads. My experience has been that many agencies prefer to award contracts to in-state businesses to help local economies. However, if a service unique or can be obtained at a much lower cost from an out-of-state vendor, agencies may make exceptions.
Preparing a Proposal When I see an interesting ad, I first call the point of contact and ask for information about the project and a copy of the RFP. A typical RFP contains a detailed description of the project and the scope of work, names of the client agencies (which may be different from the contracting agency) and project participants, the proposed schedule, qualifications and experience of the bidder, and an outline of the information required in the proposal.
Companies may also be asked to submit a fee proposal, or bid. In some cases, when the fee range is predetermined, selection is based on qualifications only and price is negotiated with the successful bidder. Occasionally, bids are submitted in a separate envelope, so that qualifications can be reviewed and ranked apart from fee considerations. In other instances, selection may be based strictly on the lowest bid. Some agencies request a detailed breakdown of hourly rates and projected hours, whereas others ask for a lump-sum figure.
Whether you are a sole proprietor or the owner of a 10-person operation, when pursuing government work, put together a current brochure that describes your services, previous experience (including work with former employers), client list, and background information about your company; resumes for key staff and other consultants or personnel you propose to retain or work with (your project team); and, if appropriate, examples of your work.
I’ve found that a typical proposal includes most of the items listed above as well as information about related experience. Government people want to see your business track record before they entrust you with a contract. If you can’t show a direct correlation between your experience and the project you’re pursuing, describe your company’s ability to solve problems creatively for other clients and to provide solutions on a timely basis within budgets, or cite your previous experience, if any, with other government organizations.
Get Inside Knowledge Whenever possible, tailor a proposal to the specific project, in addition to submitting your standard off-the-shelf material. People reviewing proposals notice when you make an effort to understand their needs. For example, when another architectural firm asked me to work with them on a renovation project at an upstate prison, we visited the site and spoke to the administrators about what they were looking for in a new clinic. We described our findings in the proposal and during the interview. I tailored my brochure to highlight previous health-care and prison projects, as opposed to office buildings and laboratories.
When you’ve identified an agency for work, speak with decisionmakers there to learn how it operates and about its future projects. Follow up with periodic calls to restate your interest.
Given the nature of government, it may take several weeks or even months before you get a response to your proposal. On occasion, long after I’ve submitted a proposal, I’ve gotten a call or letter notifying me that my firm’s project team has been short-listed: Out of 10 submissions, ours is one of five firms under consideration. We’re assigned a date the following week for an interview in front of a panel of five people.
If you’re asked to interview for a specific project, do some detective work. Check out who your competition is as well as who will be on the interview panel and what their overall job functions and specific project roles will be. This helps you prepare and structure your presentation. The panel may include a mix of managers, technicians, contracting officers, and financial and affirmative-action representatives. Be prepared to think on your feet, answer honestly, and address each of their agendas. Government people, however, aren’t looking for flashy shows–in addition to learning how you’ll do the work, they want to see the chemistry and communication skills of the people they’ll be dealing with daily after they award a job.
Small-Firm and Minority Business Strategies For bigger projects, small companies often team up with larger ones in joint ventures or associations. That way, two firms with different skills and strengths can chase work for which neither one, alone, might otherwise be considered. For example, two well-established architectural firms, one large and one midsize, asked me to pursue a major study about health-care services at a New York City jail complex. With my general experience in health-care design and specific experience in prison health care for state and federal agencies, and as a woman-owned business enterprise (WBE), my firm provided specialized expertise that neither of the bigger firms had in-house.
When teaming up with others for government work, it’s preferable if at least one of the companies has a good track record with public contracts. If your company is fairly new, don’t overlook the value of individual experience gained while employed by others. Someone on the reviewing side may be familiar with your previous work or employers, which could give you an edge. Anything that indicates your familiarity with the government process strengthens your chances of being considered favorably.
Public sector agencies frequently encourage larger firms to associate with M/WBEs. New York State, for instance, advertises the required percentages for minority- and women-owned businesses as a part of each contract. In some CBD ads, federal agencies specify a mix of required levels of participation for minorities, small women-owned businesses, disadvantaged businesses, and local businesses within a 50- or 100-mile radius to the project location. Occasionally, projects are noted as small-business set-asides–specifically for M/WBE firms.
The federal government does not have its own certification, but it publishes standards to define eligibility. Some jurisdictions–such as New York City, Boston, and the states of New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Florida–require certification to be considered a M/WBE. Certification demands legal and financial documentation that indicates the business is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by a member of a minority group or a woman. If you apply for certification, allow plenty of time to prepare the necessary supporting materials as well as anywhere from two months to a year for the approval process. Economic development agencies often handle applications and will answer questions.
Is It Worth It? Government work can be rewarding, especially if your effort results in a visible and meaningful contribution to the social fabric of your community. Patience, a positive, proactive attitude, and a desire to deliver high-quality service on time and within budget are the main points to remember when you seek–and sign–your next government contract.
Posted On 10:44 am in Uncategorized
Self-employed plumbers, veterinarians, computer consultants, and anesthesiologists have a new friend in Washington. It’s called H.R. 3407–House of Representatives Bill 3407–an act that proposes to restore the full home-office deduction to them and the thousands of other Americans who work for themselves from a home office but perform their services out in the field.
The Supreme Court sandbagged that group last year when it ruled in the Commissioner of lnternal Revenue v. Solimon case that the home-office deduction would not be available to businesspeople who plied their trade away from their home offices—even if those offices were used exclusively for business.
Despite the IRS’s argument that the court’s ruling in the case only verified existing policy, the agency has clearly taken the decision as a sign to tighten up the rules. New directions included with 1993 tax forms note that home offices are deductible only if they are used regularly, exclusively, and principally for business. To determine if a home office is a principal office, a taxpayer must weigh various business activities.
“If the nature of your business requires that you meet or confer with clients or patients, or requires that you deliver goods or services to a customer, the place where that contact occurs must be given greater weight in determining where the most important activities are performed. Performance of necessary or essential activities in your home office (such as planning for services or the delivery of goods, or the accounting or billing for those activities or goods) is not controlling,” mad the IRS directions.
Reaction on the Hill To many observers, both the Supreme ‘Court ruling and the IRS response seemed like an overreaction that denied many businesspeople their legitimate business deductions. One observer–Rep. Peter Hoagland (D-Nebraska), H.R. 340Ts sponsor–drafted th.e bill so that people who administer or manage their businesses from a home office could qualify for the deduction.
The bill is not a radical departure from existing law; it maintains the regular and exclusive tests and merely expands the principal test to include “essential administrative or management activities.” H.R. 3407 would allow deductions for exclusive home offices if they are necessary “because the taxpayer has no other location for the performance of the administrative or management activities of the business.”
Without the bill, people who perform their jobs away from their home offices–cosmetic saleswomen, photographers, carpenters, programmers, and the like–will have a difficult time taking their deductions. Hoagland conjured up the image of a home-based rural veterinarian and asked, “Do we really want the law to require the cow be brought to the office?”
“No!” responded many of his congressional colleagues, who not only imagined the cow in the dining room but also added up the number of their constituents who work from home and jumped on as cosponsors of the measure.
Those cosponsors give this bill the best chance yet of passage in a Congress that’s been deficit-drubbed into shunning any legislation that provides tax relief to anyone. Hoagland is on the crucial tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, as are Democratic cosponsors Mike Kopetski (Oregon) and John Lewis (Georgia) and Republicans Philip Crane (Illinois), Nancy Johnson (Connecticut), and Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania). Noncommittee cosponsors include Kweisi Mfume (D-Maryland). This collection of politicians would not be on the same side of an issue unless it was one of universal popularity.
Handicapping the Bill’s Chances It is that universal popularity that this bill needs if it is to be enacted, because of the complicated parliamentary rules that shape Congress’s consideration of financial matters. “Right now, I’d give it about a 50-50 chance of passage, given that Clinton is not calling for a comprehensive tax bill this year,” says Benson Goldstein, a lobbyist for the National Association for the SelfEmployed (NASE), which has been a driving force behind this bill.
A spokesperson for the House Ways and Means Committee explained that two key rules could kill the legislation–the revenue neutral rule and the Byrd rule. The first requires that all tax and budget provisions affect revenue evenly. If it spends Treasury money, it has to make it back in some other way in a zero-sum game. The Byrd rule prohibits the Senate from debating amendments to the annual budget bill that do not directly relate to the budget itself.
So home-office relief could die at either legislative roadblock. The only way to get an amendment like the home-office deduction through the Senate on the budget bill, says John Satagaj–president of the Small Business Legislative Council, an organization of other small-business trade groups–would be to “create such an urgent need for the legislation that Congress just has to do it.”
If enough Senators get behind the home-office bill, they could keep it in the budget bill by “unanimous consent”–an agreement that it can stay in without any debate or further amendment. That is the sense of urgency that Satagaj says sponsors are trying to create on the home-office bill.
The Grass-Roots Effort To that end, backers are painting H.R. 3407 as much more than an arcane measure that will provide relief for doctors and others not generally high on the sympathy list. Instead, the bill is about motherhood and civil rights and disability relief. Says Hoagland, “For many people with historically poor access to capital, such as women and minorities, and for many people for whom traditional office environments or commuting pose problems, such as the elderly and the disabled, the home-based business can be an important road to economic independence.”
Bennie Thayer, chief executive officer of NASE, adds, “The bill is pro-family. It lets one spouse stay with the kids and at the same time operate a small business to earn extra money.” The National Association of Women Business Owners is one of several professional associations that have banded together in a coalition to get this bill passed.
That coalition, formed by NASE with the Small Business Legislative Council, also includes the National Society of Public Accountants, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies, the Direct Selling Association, the Specialty Advertising Association International, the Illinois Women’s Economic Development Summit, the Bureau of Wholesale Sales Representatives, and the Alliance of Independent Store Owners and Professionals. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the National Federation of Independent Business, as well as HOME OFFICE COMPUTING support the legislation but are not currently members of the coalition.
These groups are lobbying Congress, studying the provision for its true economic impact, and at press time, seeking Senate sponsors for the bill. The group urges homebased professionals to write in support of the measure.
Today, the Home Office; Tomorrow, a New Agenda?
Though it is still in its infant stage, the formation of a coalition around the homeoffice issue bodes well for homeworkers who, until now, have not had a unified voice in Washington on issues including taxes, health care, and insurance. With their numbers increasing rapidly, home-based workers can look forward to finding a greater voice on these issues. What you do–such as contacting your representatives–makes a big difference. “This isn’t just an isolated fluke,” says Satagaj of H.R. 3407. It could be the start of something big.
Posted On June 4, 2014 at 10:48 am in Uncategorized
Red eyes, often caused by irritated blood vessels, can result from allergies, smoke, smog, chlorine, lack of sleep, or watching TV for long periods of time. If you have red eyes that are itchy, try not to rub them. Doing so can start an itch-rub cycle@ The more you rub, the more your eyes will itch. If red eyes don,t clear up, eyedrops or other medications are available. Ask a parent or a pharmacist for advice.
Conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, is a common eye condition. Symptoms of bacterial conjunctivitis include redness, swelling, itching, and a discharge that can be so thick that the eyelids almost stick together. Persons with pinkeye should be seen by a doctor. This very contagious condition can be passed on by contaminated fingers, washcloths, or towels.
Be careful when using sharp objects anywhere near your eyes. Items in everyday use, such as hairbrushes, mascara brushes, and even paper napkins or paper towels, can scratch the cornea, the outer covering of the eye. The result can be anything from a minor irritation to a more serious injury requiring your eye to be covered with a patch for a day or two.
Other things that can hurt your eyes are steam from microwave popcorn (if you look closely into the bag as you open it), curling irons, and snapping rubber bands or bungee cords that hold down objects.
The Three O’s
When your eyes need special care, you’re likely to seek out one of these three kinds of eye care professionals, the three O’s:
Ophthalmologists are physicians who diagnose and treat eye diseases, prescribe drugs, perform eye surgery, and give prescriptions for glasses and contacts.
Optometrists have graduate degrees in optometry, but they are not physicians. They can examine eyes for vision problems and disease, and write prescriptions for glasses and contacts.
Opticians fill prescriptions for eyeglasses. Some states require opticians to be licensed. Some states also allow them to fit contacts, but they cannot perform an eye examination.
Sports and Your Eyes
Basketball players get elbows in the eye. Baseballs and hockey pucks travel at o miles an hour. A squash ball has more energy than a .22 caliber bullet. Even badminton isn’t a gentle sport: Olympic competitors send shuttlecocks flying at 140 mph.
In 1993, 41,000 Americans suffered eye injuries in sports. More than 70 percent of those injuries happened to people under age 25. It is estimated that 90 percent of all sports-related eye accidents are preventable.
Athletes in most sports are urged to wear eye protection with lenses made of polycarbonate, a tough material used in plastic riot shields and jet aircraft canopies. When you choose eyeguards, make sure the materials meet impact standards set by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). The protective glasses should fit comfortably and allow you to wear a helmet with them. Don’t buy or use sports eyeguards without lenses.
Sun and Snow
Sun reflecting off snow sets the conditions for snow blindness, an overexposure of the eyes to ultraviolet rays. Snow blindness makes your eyes red, itchy, and sensitive to light, making them feel as if they had been rubbed with sandpaper. Recovery from snowblindness takes time – up to two or three days. The condition is easily prevented by wearing goggles or glasses that wrap around the side of your face and that filter out 100 percent of the ultraviolet light. Another advantage to wearing goggles is that they protect your eyes from wayward ski poles and tree branches.
* Reading in bad light hurts your eyes. In low light your pupils open wider (dilate) to let in more light. This may strain the eye muscles, but dim light doesn’t harm your eyesight. * Using a computer or doing detail work makes you nearsighted. Nearsightedness is genetic (inherited), and no type of work will make your vision worse. Working at a computer, however, can make your eyes dry because you blink less and you tend to open your eyes wider. Artificial tears, which are a kind of eyedrop, are good to relieve this. If you wear glasses for reading and work a lot at a computer, you may develop eyestrain. Reading glasses are made for reading at a distance of about 12 to 14 inches; computer screens are usually 18 to 20 inches away. Ask your eye care professional about lenses that are appropriate for a computer. * Your vision will get worse if you don’t wear your glasses, or vice versa. The anatomy of your eye isn’t changed by your wearing glasses. Not wearing your glasses strains the eye muscles, but does not affect the eyes.
Finally, remember that you can’t wear out your eyes by overusing them.
Shades of Protection
Look for these three features when choosing sunglasses. * Lenses that block 90 percent to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. This information should be stated on the tag. * Dark tints that screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light. * Lenses that have uniform color and no distortion. Test this by holding the sunglasses at arm’s length and looking through them at a straight line. If the line distorts or moves, the lens has imperfections.
Posted On May 25, 2014 at 10:51 am in Uncategorized
WITH $1 MILLION OF EQUITY IN HER BUSINESS AND THE prospect of a 67 percent boost in revenues this year from 1993′s $600,000, Margaret Byrne Heimbold thought she’d be a good candidate for a $1 million bank expansion loan. She learned differently.
“The banks have come to see me, but they’re not interested in the size of the deal,” says the owner and publisher of Metro Golf, a regional magazine based in Washington, D.C. “They’re not interested in something for $1 million; they want something from $2 million to $5 million.”
Why It’s Hard to Borrow
Bankers deny there is a credit crunch, and some insist that small-business lending is their top priority–but nobody is fooled. In fact, there is an overwhelming factor that makes it all but impossible for the neediest companies to borrow: the government’s web of banking regulations. In the wake of the taxpayer-funded bailout of the savings and loan industry, Washington imposed draconian regulations on all individual bankers–in effect, making each of them personally liable if a loan they extend turns sour.
“The fact is, the banking industry is overregulated,” says William M. Isaac, former chairman of the FDIC under President Reagan and now chief executive officer of The Secura Group, financial consultants in Washington, D.C.
“Under new risk-based capital rules, banks have to maintain significantly higher capital against small-business loans than they do against government bonds; higher loan-loss reserves are required as well,” says Isaac. Loan-loss reserves turn into money the banks cannot lend out–dead capital, in essence, the opposite of any banker’s desires.
Where the Loans Aren’t
A Clinton initiative in March 1993 was to exempt from these costly regulations certain small, unsecured bank loans, the sort referred to in the industry as character loans. Banks were authorized to create a special category of such loans, called a basket. These loans would escape extraordinary federal scrutiny and would face just the ordinary prebailout review. Isaac, however, doesn’t think the basket approach is making a significant difference, and few bankers would disagree.
“Most banks do not use the basket,” says Joseph W. May, executive vice president of Whitney National Bank in New Orleans and president of Robert Morris Associates, a professional organization of bank credit officers. “It creates more paperwork than it saves.” Even though basket loans might seem simpler than standard business loans–since they’re subject to fewer federal regulations–they’re not because they impose extra administrative work on any bank (creating a new set of books, using the old rules, segregating the basket loans from others, and accounting for them separately).
“We haven’t found it necessary to put any loans into the so-called basket,” adds Thomas F. Ripke Jr., chief credit administrator of West One Bank, Idaho, in Boise. William J. Rossman, chief executive officer of Mid-State Bank & Trust Co. in Altoona, Pennsylvania, says, “We have not created such a basket, and we probably would not. Character has always been a major part of extending credit to any customer.”
Other than the Clinton basket, Washington has done little to nothing on the subject of small-business lending in recent months. In the fall of last year, Clinton proposed reforms to the federal Community Reinvestment Act, but they narrowly target minority communities.
An unnamed senior member of the House Small Banking Committee staff says, “The only things we’ve done through the committee are impose new fees on loans resold in the secondary market and reduce the guarantee on big real estate loans–which added $4 billion in SBA loan guarantees for 1993 without additional authorization.”
Last year Washington required, for the first time, that the FDIC begin collecting data on the size of business loans in an attempt to take the pulse of the small end of the market. The data, as of June 30, 1993, was startling: Of the $437.5 billion in domestic commercial and industrial loans outstanding at FDIC-insured banks, some $161.5 billion, or 36.9 percent, were for an original amount of $1 million or less. More remarkably, some $79.9 billion–$1 of every $5 lent to business by America’s FDIC-insured banks–was invested in loans of $100,000 or less.
This information seems to belie the notion that banks are loath to lend to the little guy–a notion the American Bankers Association has been pushing. “There never was a credit crunch,” says Sonia Barbara, a spokeswoman for the trade group. “We were not seeing the demand. We have plenty of money to lend, but the credit-worthy borrowers just aren’t there.”
The data, however, is seriously flawed. For one thing, the size of the loan, not the borrower, is measured. A Fortune 500 company borrowing $60,000 in each of five deals to finance the purchase of materials from local suppliers around the country would be counted five times–in each instance as a little guy.
Local Loan Relief
If Washington hasn’t done much for small-business borrowers lately, there is the promise of some relief on a local basis.
Borrowing that leads directly to the creation of new jobs–or even their retention–may qualify for assistance from a local development corporation (LDC). As creatures of state and local governments, LDCs qualify for financial aid from the SBA and other agencies. LDCs blanket the states, even in rural areas, although they’re more visible in big cities.
Small businesses’ most available financing, called microloans, is administered by the LDCs. For instance, the Racine County Business Development Corp. in Wisconsin makes loans of up to $15,000 to minority entrepreneurs, retailers, wholesalers, and service businesses. “This is a niche where we see a real need,” says Gordon Kacala, its executive director.
In 1992 the SBA began funding 96 microloan operations nationwide. “As a general rule, the average is under $10,000,” notes Mike Stamler, the agency’s spokesman.
The problem with getting a microloan is that a microlender’s resources are typically slim. In the last eight years, the group in Racine has made only 53 loans of all kinds–not just microloans–for an average of fewer than seven loans annually.
Some local and regional banks have also attacked their cost structure–the review of a $100,000 loan costs as much as one for $1 million–by creating off-the-shelf business products analogous to consumer automobile loans.
“Basically we’ve got lines of credit, revolvers, term loans, and leasing products,” says Lawrence M. Savino, head of small-business lending for Mid-State Bank & Trust Co. in Altoona. “We can turn these around in no more than two weeks.” Mid-State Bank has two small-business lending centers and two satellite offices in the central part of Pennsylvania. Other banks demonstrate similar flexibility, but note that you’ll still have to pledge your home or other valuable items to get these commercial loans.
Also, the recovering national economy is making it easier for small firms to borrow because their businesses are picking up, making them more bankable. But the bottom line in small-business borrowing is unchanged in 1994.
“If you sign personally, you can get credit,” says Heimbold, the magazine publisher in Washington. “Otherwise, forget it.”
Posted On May 17, 2014 at 10:45 am in Uncategorized
January 4, Reno Gazette Journal, Reno, NV: Hug High Student Killed in Crash… “Tria Cornejo and Nito Ramirez were best friends …. Arizona authorities are trying to determine whether Ramirez, 17, a Hug High football player, will be prosecuted for losing control of his classmate’s car. Cornejo, a 19-year-old Hug senior, died when the car left the highway at the Nevada-Arizona border near Bullhead City, Arizona.
“Cornejo was asleep while Ramirez was driving. Police say Ramirez became drowsy and fell asleep behind the wheel … He is believed to have lost control of the car and crashed….”
Snoozing and cruising don’t mix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 200,000 crashes are related to driving while drowsy. A large percentage of highway crashes involve driver fatigue.
Sleepiness and sleep deprivation are major concerns, especially for teens. Sleepiness not only can mean dozing off in class and missing an important point for the next test, but it also can mean dozing off behind the wheel and causing loss of life.
Specific sleep problems may first appear during the teen years. Identifying teens with actual sleep disorders, however, can be a problem because teenagers are known to be, well, sleepy. It becomes difficult to separate the people who have a genuine sleep disorder from those who are sleep-deprived because of lifestyle choices.
It has been proven that the average teen needs eight to 10 hours of sleep – and yet, you have to get up earlier for school, have more responsibilities, and probably stay up late at night. And for the first time in your life, you may have problems going to sleep or rising early.
Narcolepsy, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and restless leg syndrome often begin during teen years. Add this to the emotional ups and downs that occur naturally at this time of your life – leaving you even more prone to daytime sleepiness and sleep deprivation.
Developing sleep smarts is not only important for your future lifestyle, it is important right now. Studies have shown that students who sleep more at night do in fact have higher grades and less daytime sleepiness.
The Sleep Robbers
Insomnia occurs when people have a difficult time falling and/or staying asleep. A sleep history may reveal the cause. illness, drugs, stress, depression, noise, pain, breathing disorder, anxiety, etc. But sometimes the cause is not known. Treatments will vary, depending on the cause. Insomnia produces symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) involves not being able to fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning, and then having difficulty waking up for school. It is a common complaint of teens. To overcome DSPS, sleep specialists advise going to bed late on Saturday night, but getting up on Sunday at the time you would go to school. From then on, a strict bedtime routine weekdays and weekends must be kept.
Sleep Deprivation is a collective term for loss of sleep. A person with sleep deprivation may experience daytime sleepiness and lessened productivity in school and work; falling asleep at the wheel or on the job; irritability and foul moods. Many things can deprive you of the sleep you need: alcohol use, nicotine, anxiety, depression, and simply ignoring your need for rest and relaxation. Too often, sleepiness is ignored in teens until other, more serious symptoms show up.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is also known as Periodic Limb Movement During Sleep (PLMS). Twelve million men, women, and children suffer from RLS. Fidgety, moving legs interrupt a good night,s sleep. Kids have been misdiagnosed as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) as they have to move around a lot to get rid of the creepy, crawly feeling in their legs. People can feel groggy during the day. RLS may be due to low levels of a brain chemical known as dopamine; certain medications may help with the symptoms.
Narcolepsy can begin at puberty and last a lifetime. The primary symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness. Episodes of muscular weakness (cataplexy) are common when intense emotions occur (anger, surprise, amusement). There are often sleep attacks during the day, so activities such as driving should be avoided. Some people can learn to anticipate an attack and take naps to prevent it. Certain medications help some people.
A person with sleep apnea stops breathing for short periods of time during sleep. Symptoms include a lot of daytime sleepiness and loud snoring. Being overweight or having a palate that blocks the airway may cause this potentially serious disorder. In some cases, corrective surgery and weight loss may help.
How can you cope? You can begin by accepting the fact that it is normal for most teens to need eight to 10 hours of sleep every night. Once you know what you need, change your lifestyle to get the sleep that you need. This may mean some big compromises, but in the long run they will produce rewards.
What Can You Do?
Try these suggestions:
* Become active in the Drive Alert … arrive Alive programs in your area sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). For information, write to the foundation at 1367 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Dept. CH, Washington, DC 20036. If you’re sleepy, don’t drive. * Make your personal sleeping space inviting and restful. Consider keeping the TV and computer in another area and unplugging the phone. Add some more pillow and soft, cozy stuff. Get some fresh air into your room. Turn on some mellow music to relax. * Keep a sleep log or journal. Share it with your health care provider, if necessary. * Find ways to increase the time you sleep deeply, such as getting regular exercise (at least three hours before bedtime) and taking hot baths. Avoid heavy meals near bedtime. * Write away those troubles. Keep a journal to write down the day’s events – your thoughts and concerns. Many people find this helpful in getting problems off their minds. * If probably persist, you may need to see a doctor or a sleep specialist. * Finally, empower yourself to make the choice to get the sleep that you need. Give yourself permission to say, “Well, time to go and get some zzz’s.”