Poor Sleep Impacts Health in Many Ways.
Do you cut corners when it comes to your sleep, thinking it won’t be a problem? You may think that sleep is merely “downtime” when the brain shuts off and the body rests. Think again. Your brain and body is still active even while you’re asleep.
Sleep is a complex biological process that helps you process new information, stay healthy, and feel rested. During sleep, your brain cycles through four stages.
Stage 1 – changeover from wakefulness to sleep.
Stage 2 – a period of light sleep before you enter deeper sleep.
Stage 3 – the period of deep sleep that you need to feel refreshed in the morning. Paying attention to sleep hygiene is one of the most straightforward ways that you can set yourself up for better sleep.
Stage 4 – REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep. For healthy sleep, you need all four stages.
Certain phases of sleep help you to:
- Feel rested and energetic the next day
- Learn information, get insight and form memories
- Give your heart and vascular system a rest
- Boost your immune system to help fight off illness
Quantity and quality of sleep matters
The amount of sleep you need depends on several factors: your age, lifestyle, health, and whether you have been getting enough sleep recently. The general recommendations for sleep by age group are:
- Newborns: 16-18 hours a day
- Preschool-aged children: 11-12 hours a day
- School-aged children: At least 10 hours a day
- Teens: 9-10 hours a day
- Adults (including older adults): 7-8 hours a day
And it’s not just the number of hours of sleep you get that matters. The quality of the sleep you get is also important. If your sleep is frequently interrupted or cut short, you may not be getting enough of each stage of the total sleeping process.
How does sleep affect my health?
When you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your physical and mental health. Depriving yourself of sleep can affect job or school performance, including your ability to think clearly, react quickly and form memories.
Sleep deprivation affects your mood and decision making, and can lead to:
- Problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers
Research shows that not getting enough sleep, or getting poor-quality sleep, increases your risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease, stroke
- Kidney disease
- Type 2 diabetes
How can I get better sleep?
Take steps to help improve your sleep habits. First, make sure that you allow yourself enough time to sleep.
Try these tips:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening
- Avoid alcoholic drinks or large meals and beverages late at night
- Relax before bed, for example by taking a bath, reading or listening to relaxing music
- Get rid of distractions such as noises, bright lights, and a TV or computer in the bedroom. Also, don’t be tempted to go on your phone or tablet just before bed.
Visit http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits to read more about healthy sleep and get more tips and information. If you continue to have problems sleeping, it may be time to talk to your doctor or health care provider.
Sleep disorders impact millions
Doctors and specialists can diagnose and treat these conditions. If you have trouble sleeping, you are not alone. Millions of Americans at any given time have trouble getting and staying asleep. According to the American Sleep Association, as many as 50 to 70 million U.S. adults suffer from a sleep disorder.
The five most common sleep disorders and symptoms are:
- Insomnia – not being able to sleep when tired, feeling exhausted when waking, no amount of sleep is enough to feel well-rested.
- Sleep Apnea – heavy snoring and waking up gasping or choking.
- Narcolepsy – falling asleep anytime or anywhere.
- Restless Legs Syndrome – uncontrollable urge to move your legs while sleeping that can cause pain and a crawling sensation.
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder – living out your dreams (kicking, shouting, talking, punching) that causes you to be a danger to yourself and others.
These disorders and the sleep deprivation they cause can interfere with work, driving, social activities, and overall quality of life, and can have serious health implications. In addition to the health impact, the financial impact is staggering. Sleep disorders account for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year, plus indirect costs due to missed days of work, decreased productivity, and other factors.
Trouble sleeping can be an indication of a more serious condition. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can contribute to sleep problems. Be sure to discuss your sleep-related questions, concerns and symptoms with your doctor or health care provider.
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SLEEP AND YOUR HEALTH FROM THESE RESOURCES:
NOTE: Our Health Matters does not recommend or endorse any treatments or medications. If you have questions about your health, please consult your doctor or health care provider.
Sources: NIH/Sleep, Sleep Foundation, The American Sleep Association