VIVA Health: Better Sleep, Better Health

The following information was provided by VIVA Health:

Sleep issues are very common in the United States. In fact, the National Institutes of Health reports that nearly 50 to 70 million Americans have them, and one out of three adults do not regularly get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep needed. Because sleeping is a basic human need like eating and breathing, it is critical to overall well-being and health. Problems with sleep can lead to a number of issues ranging from lack of productivity and irritability to injuries and even risk of death. Take a moment to assess your habits during Sleep Awareness Week, which is recognized this year from March 13-19.

Q: Why is sleep important?

A: The two basic types of sleep are rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM. Non-REM sleep includes what is commonly known as deep sleep or slow wave sleep. Dreaming typically occurs during REM sleep.

Also very important is when a person sleeps. The internal “body clock” controls wake and sleep times. This clock typically follows a 24-hour repeating rhythm, called the circadian rhythm. When it gets dark, this clock tells the body to release a hormone called melatonin, which causes drowsiness. As the sun rises, the body releases cortisol, which naturally prepares the body to wake up. It’s important to note that the circadian rhythm affects every cell, tissue, and organ in the body and how they work. Bad sleep habits also have been linked to serious chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Q: How much sleep is enough, and what is sleep deficiency?

A: Sleep needs vary from person to person and change with life phases. However, it is recommended that teens get 8-10 hours a day of sleep and adults get 7-8 hours. Sleep deficiency involves one or more of the following:

– Not getting enough sleep (sleep deprivation)

– Sleeping at the wrong time of day

– Not sleeping well or getting the different types of sleep the body needs

Exposure to bright artificial light in the late evening can make it hard to fall asleep. Napping may provide a short-term boost in alertness, but it can’t provide all of the other benefits of nighttime sleep.

Q: What are some signs that a person’s sleeping habits need to improve?

A: Sleep deficiency can interfere with work, school, driving, and social functioning. Characteristics may include trouble learning, focusing, and reacting as well as feelings of frustration or crankiness. Sleep deficiency can be judged by how sleepy a person feels during the day. If a person often feels like they can doze off during long car rides or while sitting in traffic or in public places, it may be a good idea to check out daily habits, start a sleep journal, and/or speak with a doctor.

Q: How can a person improve their sleep habits?

A: For healthy habits, try to incorporate the following practices:

– Go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day

– Spend time outside

– Exercise and take a warm bath to relax

– Avoid lights and noises before and during sleep

– Avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine in the evening

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