Are you getting enough sleep?

September 5, 2019

I don’t have time to sleep” and “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” are some of the statements that I’ve heard recently. This is not to say that sleep isn’t considered to be important. For some, it comes down to their priorities. Getting tasks done is often highly prioritized while sleep is sent to the back burner.

Sleep is vital for our physical health. It is involved in the healing and repair of our heart and blood vessels. Sleep deficiency, over time, can be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

It can also lead to physical and mental health problems, injuries, less productivity and accidents, which can lead to death. Sleep helps our brain work properly. While we’re sleeping, our brain is forming new pathways to help with learning and remembering information.

There are two sleep patterns or cycles that determine how sleep works and why it’s important. They are rapid eye movement (REM) and non- REM. Rapid eye movement is the dream state of sleep. This is where dreaming typically occurs. Non-REM sleep is commonly known as deep sleep or slow-wave sleep. Non-REM and REM sleep occur in a regular pattern of 3-5 cycles each night.

The amount of each type of sleep or total sleep we get determines our ability to function when we’re awake. It also depends on whether we’re sleeping when our body is prepared and ready to sleep.

We each have an internal clock that controls when we’re awake and when our body is ready for sleep. This clock, called the circadian rhythm, is a 24-hour repeating rhythm that affects every cell, tissue, and organ in our body.

If we’re not getting quality sleep, fatigue becomes a major issue. This could interfere with driving, work, school, issues with learning, focusing and moodiness. Studies show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. One may have trouble being decisive, solving problems, controlling emotions, and coping with change. It has also been linked to depression and suicide.

Getting adequate sleep also helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones ghrelin (the hungry hormone) or leptin (the full hormone). When you don’t get enough sleep, the level of ghrelin increases and the level of leptin goes down.

Lack of sufficient sleep also affects insulin levels. This is the hormone that controls blood glucose (sugar) levels. When this happens, it results in a higher than normal blood sugar level which can increase the risk for diabetes.

Another benefit to getting enough sleep is that it helps support healthy growth and development by releasing the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. It also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults.

Your immune system also benefits from getting adequate sleep. It protects the body from harmful substances and can help fight off common infections.

How much sleep is enough?

The average recommended amount of sleep for persons 18 years and older is 7-8 hours. More is required for those younger.

To improve sleep patterns, the following is recommended:

1. Allow yourself enough time to sleep

2. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends if possible

3. Avoid exercise right before going to bed

4. Limit your computer or television time right before going to bed

5. Try not to eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime as well as alcoholic drinks

6. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine

7. Create a relaxing environment (for example, meditation) or take a hot bath before bed

8. If you’re going to nap during the day, try not to do so for more than 20 minutes.

Here’s to a restful nights sleep!

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