By Dr. Sanjay Gupta (edited)
Many people think of sleep as a luxury or a necessary evil — as downtime that interferes with their ability to get more things done in a day. The reality is that a good night’s sleep is vital to our physical and mental well-being.
“Sleep deprivation is a really common problem,” according to neurologist Michael Howell, MD, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends seven or more hours of sleep a night for healthy adults. Less than six hours of sleep is considered inadequate, and there is no statement as to how much sleep may be too much.
Inadequate sleep affects us in ways that may surprise you. “Sleeping less than seven hours per night on a regular basis is associated with adverse health outcomes, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, and increased risk of death,” according to the AASM and SRS.
“We have found that people with diabetes who also have worse sleep quality have more difficulty controlling their blood sugar than people with diabetes who report sleeping well,” says Kristen Knutson, PhD, assistant professor in pulmonary and critical care at the University of Chicago. “Short sleep and poor sleep quality are associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.”
According to a new study published in the journal Sleep, shorter sleep duration is associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold. Researchers found that sleeping less than six hours more than quadrupled the likelihood of getting sick.
The AASM and SRS statement says that insufficient sleep “is also associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.”
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke lists memory problems, trouble making decisions, and difficultly controlling emotions among the effects of sleep deprivation.
If you think you may not be getting enough sleep, here are five things to consider:
- Make sleep a priority. “Too many people think sleep is for ‘slackers’ and that being sleep-deprived is a sign of a hard worker,” Dr. Knutson says. “That needs to change. Sleep should be considered one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle, along with diet and exercise.”
- Exercise early in the day. Research has shown that regular moderate to vigorousphysical activitycan provide a significant improvement in sleep quality. When you work out matters. The National Sleep Foundation suggests avoiding exercise right before bedtime, because a boost in body temperature can interfere with getting to sleep.
- Switch off electronics. “Turning off the TV and your phone is an easy and free way to instantly improve your quality of sleep,” Watson says. A November 2014 study in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, for example, found that evening use of devices like e-readers suppresses levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
- Sleep aids are not a permanent fix.According to the CDC, 4 percent of adults age 20 and older – some 8.5 million people – reported taking a prescription sleep aid within the month. “They’re a reasonable solution in the short term,” says Dr. Howell. “But the only chance to cure insomnia is with behavioral therapy.” Howell adds that if a person is on sleep medications for six months and stops taking them, insomnia will quickly return because the overall sleep behavior hasn’t changed.
- Know when to see a specialist. AsReena Mehra, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center points out, “there are different flavors of insomnia.” Some chronic sleep problems require medical intervention, especially if there is an underlying medical reason. If you snore at night and feel drowsy during the day, then you may be one of 18 million Americans who haveobstructive sleep apnea(OSA). OSA occurs when muscles in the back of the throat relax, which disrupts breathing. People with OSA are often unaware of the issue and think they’re sleeping straight through, so the person sharing their bed can play an important role in spotting the condition.
The bottom line: “Lack of sleep harms human health,” Watson says. “It’s associated with bad health outcomes, and affects our relationships with others. People need to view sleep as a performance-enhancing activity.
Post from: EveryDayHealth