May is Better Sleep Month and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center is taking this opportunity to talk about why getting a good night’s sleep is so important for your well-being. According to Claxton-Hepburn’s Nurse Practitioner Kathy Richey, “Sleep is as important to being alive as is drinking, eating, and going to the bathroom. These are all essentials things we do to live.” She continued, “We would never think to take any of those functions away from someone, so why would we think sleep deprivation is okay? We need to focus on the basics of good health or we miss the big picture.”
What happens when we become sleep deprived? Richey stated, “When we are not sleeping well, or have interrupted sleep, it affects stress hormones that can lead to the onset of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, as well as difficulty losing weight.” Sleep disorders also interrupt the resting brain for simple things such as breathing or restless limbs that make it more difficult for a person to get to the last stage of sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement). REM is the final stage of sleep where the body recovers and repairs itself. Richey stated, “When people rarely get to REM, they never feel fully rested and their brain is constantly trying to catch up due to lack of good restorative sleep.”
How does one know when they are sleep deprived? Richey stated, “Doing a sleep study is the only way to truly know if you have a sleep disorder because we don’t know what we are doing while we are sleeping.” Claxton-Hepburn’s Sleep Lab provides inpatient sleep testing as well as in-home sleep testing. Home studies are convenient and can be done right in your own bed at home. However, the benefit of doing an inpatient study is that it develops more specific elements of brain activity, restless legs, positioning, breathing patterns, and other things that can affect good sleep.
Richey stated, “When you’re deprived of sleep, your brain can’t function properly, affecting your cognitive abilities and emotional state.” She continued, “If it continues long enough, it can lower your body’s defenses, putting you at risk of developing chronic illness.” The more obvious signs of sleep deprivation are excessive sleepiness, yawning, and irritability. Chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with blood pressure and blood sugar control, weight loss, balance, coordination, and decision-making abilities. You’re at risk falling asleep during the day, even if you fight it.
For good sleep hygiene, the CDC and National Sleep Foundation recommend that you go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning; make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot or too cold; make sure your bed is comfortable ad use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music. Remove all TVs, computers, and other gadgets from the bedroom as these stimulate the brain; avoid large meals before bedtime.
How much sleep is enough? The CDC recommends that adults should sleep seven or more hours each night for optimal health. The Better Sleep Organization recommends that babies sleep 16 hours, children ages 3 to 18 sleep ten hours, adults ages 19 to 55 sleep eight hours, and people 65 and older sleep at least for six hours.
If you, or someone you know, is not getting enough sleep, perhaps a sleep study at Claxton-Hepburn’s Sleep Lab can help determine your problem. A physician referral is required. For more information call us at 315-713-5365, or visit us on the web at www.claxtonhepburn.org/sleeplab. Your tomorrow is worth defending.