Thursday, August 16, 2012

Importance of Sleep

Sleep is essential for health and well being but millions of people suffer from lack of sleep. Today's health and beauty buzz is on the importance of sleep.
The NSF survey concluded that over 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. 75% of adults have sleep problems a few nights or more a week.

Sleep deprivation is responsible for many health issues. These are just a few of them.
  • Disease- Lack of sleep alters the immune function of the body. Keeping up with sleep may fight cancer.
  • Mood- Loss of sleep causes irritability, impatience, moodiness and lack of interest.
  • Heart- serious sleep deprivation has been linked to cardiovascular disease, hypertension and irregular heart beat.
  • Stress- lack of sleep increases stress hormone levels.
  • Metabolism and weight- sleep loss may cause weight gain by affecting the way the body metabolises carbohydrates and alters the hormones which control appetite.
  • Memory and concentration- Sleep aids the brain in storing information. In studies, people who slept after learning a task, did better on testing later.
  • Safety- Lack of sleep may cause nodding off during the day. Mistakes are easily made and can be fatal such as medical errors, car accidents, falling in the elderly and air traffic control mishaps.
How much sleep do we need? Sleep requirements vary from person to person.  According to NIH, most healthy adults need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep to function at their best. Children need more. There is a difference between the amount of sleep you need to get by on and the amount you need for optimal functioning. Work out how much sleep you need by selecting a bed time and sticking to it every night. Sleep until you awaken naturally without any interference. It may take 2 weeks to establish your optimal sleep pattern.

There are 2 main stages of sleep:
  1. Non Rem- There are 4 stages of non rem each being deeper than the previous.
  2. Rem- This is when you do your dreaming- Your eyes move back and forth and that is why this is called REM- rapid eye movement.
Non Rem
  • The first stage of non rem is transitioning to sleep. Eyes move slowly and muscles relax. You are easily wakened. It lasts about 5 minutes.
  • The second stage of non rem is light sleep and true sleep. Your eye movement stops, heart slows and temperature drops. This lasts 10 to 25 minutes.
  • The third and forth stage of non rem is deep sleep. Brain waves are extremely slow, blood is directed towards muscles to restore energy. You are difficult to wake and groggy and disoriented if awakened.
  • This is where dreaming occurs. Eyes move rapidly, breathing is increased, heart rate and blood pressure increase and muscles in the arms and legs are paralysed. This happens after about 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep.
The stages of Rem and Non Rem form a complete cycle being repeated 4 to 6 times during the night. Each stage of sleep offers benefits with the 2 most important stages being-
  •  "Non Rem- Deep Sleep" - Non Rem deep sleep renews the body. This is when the body repairs itself and boosts the immune system. It plays a major role in maintaining health, growth and development.
  •  "Rem sleep"- Rem sleep renews the mind. It plays a vital part in learning and memory. It replenishes chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine (feel good hormones for mood) and neurotransmitters. Your brain consolidates and processes information you have learnt during the day during Rem Sleep.
Sleep Myths
  1. I adjust quickly to different sleep schedules- It can take more than a week to adjust from travelling across time zones and changing work shifts.
  2. Extra sleep at night can cure me of daytime fatigue- It is the quality of sleep along with the quantity that is important. If you don't feel rested when you wake, then the quality of your sleep is poor.
  3. I can make my sleep up on the week ends-This can affect your sleep/wake cycle so it is harder to go to sleep on Sunday night and harder to wake up on Monday morning.
  4. Getting one hour less per night won't affect me-Even a small amount of loss of sleep can affect your ability to think clearly, respond quickly and compromise your health.
Getting some help:
There are many reasons people have problems sleeping. Stress and anxiety being a major factor. Try to figure out what you need to do to get your stress under control. If you cannot stop worrying about things beyond your control, learn some techniques by consulting a professional.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. Juggling family, work, school and so on. If stress is affecting your sleep, learn to manage time effectively and concentrate on remaining calm and positive.

Stress Busters:
  • Deep breathing. Take deep slow breaths.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Listen to soft music.
  • Muscle relaxation- tense and relax your muscles starting at your toes and continue up to your head.
  • Visualize a peaceful and restful place. Close your eyes and imagine you are there.
  • Don't stress about not being able to sleep. Make relaxation your goal. Relaxation will also help to rejuvenate your body although not a replacement for sleep.
Tips for quality sleep:
  • Aim for 7.5 hours of sleep a night.
  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Take a day time power nap. It should be early afternoon and no longer than 30 minutes. Stop if you experience insomnia at night.
  • Don't nod off before bed time. If you find yourself napping in front of the TV, get up and do something so that you don't wake in the night unable to go back to sleep.
  • Eat early in the evening avoiding rich, fatty and spicy foods which are difficult to digest and may cause acid reflux.
  • Avoid alcohol- alcohol reduces the quality of sleep although it may allow you to fall asleep faster.
  • Cut down on caffeine.
  • Don't smoke-nicotine is a stimulant. Smokers may suffer withdrawal symptoms at night.
  • Exercise during the day.
  • Read a book keeping the lights dim, listen to music or an audio book.
  • Avoid screens of all kinds- TV, cell phone, computer and ipad. The light they emit is stimulating to the brain.
  • Keep your room dark and use low watt bulbs for lighting.
  • Keep the noise down or try masking it with a fan or earplugs.
  • Keep the room cool and ventilated. Hot or cold temperatures in bedrooms interfere with sleep.
  • Invest in a comfortable bed and pillows.
  • Drink a cup of warm 2% milk.
Sleep Aids:
There are many remedies marketed to the sleep deprived. Consult with your doctor prior to taking  any sleep aids. Many herbal remedies for sleep should be avoided as they may have an adverse reaction when taken with certain prescription drugs. Sleep aids should only be used for short periods of time as they may become addictive.  These are some of the more popular sleep aids none of which I have personally taken.
  1. SAMe- Primarily used as an antidepressant as well as found effective in treating joint pain. Also used for fibromyalgia and liver disease.- Should not be taken by people with bi polar disorder and those taking antidepressants.
  2. 5HTP- The primary use of 5HTP is for depression, but is also used for insomnia and anxiety.
  3. St John's wort is widely used for depression. There is evidence that St John's wort may interfere with the effectiveness of 50% of medications as well negatively interact with many including birth control, antidepressants, blood thinners and statins.
  4. Liquid Melatonin extract- 2 tsp added to chamomile tea taken 2 hours before bed. The release of melatonin is what triggers and regulates sleep. The body produces more melatonin in a dark room than a dimly lit one.
  5. Valerian Root Tea taken 2 hours before bed.
  6. Astragulus Root- 200 mgs-Take 60 minutes before bed.
  7. Wild Lettuce extract- Take 30mg before bed.
  8. Passion flower- taken in drop form or added to tea.
  9. Acupuncture or acupressure.
Sleep smoothie:            Drink 1 hour before bed- 220 calories.
1 TBS grape skin powder
1 Banana
1 cup of strawberries
1 cup of water or seltzer

Keep healthy, happy and safe.

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