Get your beauty sleep or you may be upping your risk for hypertension, diabetes, premature aging & moreSleep
By pH health care professionals
Sleep deficiency and poor sleep quality are widely underestimated as major causes of health problems and mortality. They are not only related to daytime sleepiness, poor memory and decreased ability to concentrate, but to more serious outcomes as well, such as increased car crashes (1.2 million car crashes in the US each year are related to drowsiness), and a multitude of permanent adverse health effects such as increased heart problems, degenerative effects on brain function, premature aging and weight gain. Statistics show that at least 50-70 million people in the U.S. have a sleep disorder. A Gallup poll suggests that as much as 40 percent of Americans get less than the recommend sleep time. Sleep times averaged 7.9 hours in 1942. This number has steadily decreased to 6.8 hours in the 1990s and 2000s.
What is healthy sleep?
Healthy sleep is simply the amount and quality of sleep you need in order to feel your best the next day and overall. The 2011 National Institutes of Health Sleep Disorder Research Plan defined sleep deficiency as a deficit in the amount and quality of sleep obtained vs. the necessary amount for optimal health, performance and wellbeing. Typical length for healthy sleep may vary by individual and by age. Deficiency of quality sleep is more common, but getting excess sleep can also cause health problems.
What is the purpose of sleep?
According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep is essential for healthy brain function, emotional wellbeing, physical health, daytime performance and safety. It helps with your learning, memory and mood. During sleep, leptin (a hormone that suppresses hunger) is produced, so lack of sleep makes you hungrier. Adrenal hormones (which provide energy) need to recuperate during sleep. Human growth hormone is released at night (and while exercising too), and it is important for growth, maintaining your tissues and organs, and metabolism.
Some studies indicate that sleep is necessary for clearing and regenerating the brain of toxins. Although bad dreams can certainly disrupt your sleep, they may have an important influence on your emotional health. Dreams are likely to have an important function in helping you emotionally digest life events and resolve internal conflict.
It is interesting to see what Olympic athletes do. They train diligently and at maximum effort, but in order to peak in competition, they need to balance strenuous exercises with periods of active rest and giving the body time to recover to reach its full potential. Similar principles apply to the human body and sleep. It’s about striking the right balance between physical and mental efforts, and taking the appropriate period of recovery time in order to produce the best effects (more energy, productivity, strength).
Sleep deficiency over time can cause more serious side effects, including:
- Increased heat disease, heart attacks, hypertension and stroke.
- Increased rates of diabetes, degraded metabolic function, impaired glucose intolerance and an increase in glucose levels.
- Permanent degenerative effects of the brain, information processing, memory and learning.
- Increased levels of cortisol and being overweight.
- Premature aging and sagging skin.
- Adverse effects on various hormones such as adrenal and sex hormones.
- Decreased immune system responsiveness.
- May contribute to depression, suicide and risky behavior.
- Decreased life expectancy.
How can you be proactive about your sleep?
Let’s make a proactive plan to get you sleeping like a baby. To start, grab a pen and paper and jot down the answers to this quick sleep self-assessment (you can bring your answers to next doctor’s appointment too):
- Do I fall asleep easily or is this difficult? Does it take more than 30 minutes?
- Do I sleep through the night or do I wake up intermittently?
- Do I wake up refreshed or am I sluggish to get the day started? Am I snoring?
- Do I depend on stimulants to avoid fatigue? Do I get sleepy when driving?
- Do I have regular sleep patterns? Or if not, how does it affect me?
- When do I wake up naturally without an alarm clock and do I feel better?
- What things are influencing my sleep quality? Examples include alcohol, food, noise, bedroom environment, snoring partner, anxiety, legal/illegal stimulants, unresolved problems, medication, recreational drugs, pain syndromes, restless leg, darkness of the bedroom or length of sleep.
Now make your healthy sleep game plan. Try some of these strategies and retake the self-assessment to track improvements.
Strategies to improve your sleep:
- Stick to a sleep schedule and try to go to bed and wake up at the same times, even on the weekends. Limit shift work as possible.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. Take a hot bath or warm shower before going to sleep. Limit electronic media before going to sleep.
- If you have trouble sleeping, limit naps, especially in the afternoon.
- Make your sleep environment your cloud 9. Pay attention to comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your room is a comfortable temperature. Eliminate unnecessary noises. Ventilate the room before sleeping; use an air filter to remove dust and pollen.
- Use eye shades and darkness when you go to sleep. Try bright light therapy to help you adjust to waking up and get back into your circadian rhythms.
- Sleep aids. Preferably use natural strategies and supplements. Limit prescription medication to only when it is truly necessary and avoid habitual use and dependency. Be aware that the body gets used to medication and doses are commonly increased as it becomes less effective, causing more dependency.
- Find more simple strategies you can try right away here.
Discuss your sleep issues with a competent doctor to learn more and find additional solutions.
Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.