Proper sleep a key contributor to health, well-being
Getting a good night’s sleep means more than you probably think.
“I would say the importance of sleep is definitely underestimated by the general public,” said Dr. Sandhya Kumar. “Some people may say all they need is five hours of sleep and if they’re getting that they’re good to go, but what they’re not realizing is that they’re probably not functioning at their fullest potential.”
Sleep is much more than simple rest. The brain and body don’t shut down during sleep; rather, they perform important tasks that promote both mental and physical health, such as producing hormones that help repair cells and fight off illness. Proper sleep contributes significantly to feeling better and functioning better when awake.
And “beauty sleep” is no mere myth: A 2011 Swedish study found that “sleep-deprived people appear less healthy, less attractive and more tired compared with when they are well rested.”
Conversely, according to volumes of research, inadequate sleep can cause people to be irritable, have slower response times, make unwise decisions, have trouble with relationships, perform poorly at work or school and become depressed more easily, not to mention increasing the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cognitive difficulties and other medical problems.
The amount of sleep a person needs depends on his or her age. Generally, newborns require 16 to 18 hours nightly, preschoolers 11 to 12 hours, school-age children and teenagers at least 10 hours and adults (including seniors) between seven and eight hours.
“There are people who, for example, say that they can drink coffee and don’t have trouble sleeping, but that’s not true,” Kumar said. “They may not have trouble falling asleep but the quality of their sleep is not what they need. They don’t have the deep sleep that is the most restful, or they have trouble waking up.”
The same is true with alcohol, Kumar said. “Having a drink before going to bed may help you fall asleep but the quality of sleep isn’t good, so you’re probably not going to feel rested at all the next day,” she said.
The first thing anyone who has, or thinks they may have, a sleeping problem should do, Kumar said, is examine their habits to see if they’re following proper sleep hygiene. The easiest way to do this is on the Internet, where a number of authoritative sites — Kumar recommends www.yoursleep.aasmnet.org an American Academy of Sleep Medicine site — offer advice on ways to get a good night’s rest.
But what if following the tips — allowing sufficient time for sleep, going to bed and waking up the same time every day, removing distractions from the bedroom — doesn’t help? The next step, Kumar said, should be to see a doctor, either a primary care physician or a sleep specialist, because many sleeping problems are caused by other health or medical issues. Insomnia, for example, can be a reaction to a prescription drug, while restless leg syndrome is linked to iron deficiency.
“In most cases a primary care physician should be able to evaluate the symptoms and determine what is causing the sleeping problem and then prescribe a treatment,” she said. But that treatment shouldn’t necessarily include sleeping pills, Kumar noted.
“Prescription sleep aids can be helpful in the short term; they can help with initiating and maintaining sleep,” she said. “But taking a sleep aid and not doing anything else doesn’t help over the long term. It’s important to find the cause of the problem, not rely on a sleep aid alone.”
Stay tuned for our top tips on getting a good nights sleep!
Via: Science Daily