We all know sleep is important, even essential, but when was the last time you slept a solid eight hours and woke up refreshed (maybe even without an alarm to wake you up)? The fact of the matter is that the quality of sleep you get directly impacts your overall health as you age.
Guest blogger Beth Reuschling, RRT – FMH’s Sleep Center Coordinator, spells out the importance of catching your Zzzs:
Approximately 75% of us will experience some type of sleeping difficulty at some point in our lives. That statistic aside, a large portion of the U.S. population averages less than six hours of sleep each night. So what’s the big deal? Chronic sleep loss can contribute to all kinds of other health issues like weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression, and it can even weaken your immune system.
Six impacts of Sleep Deprivation:
- Memory and concentration – Sleep assists with committing new information to memory. Your ability to concentrate and to learn are diminished when your body is sleep deprived.
- Weight gain – Sleep deprivation may change the way your body stores and processes carbohydrates. In turn, this affects the hormone levels that affect appetite.
- Mood – Lack of sleep may cause feelings of irritability, impatience and overall moodiness. This will directly impact your daily quality of life.
- Heart health – Hypertension (high blood pressure), increased stress and even stroke have been directly linked to sleep deprivation and obstructive sleep apnea.
- Disease / immunity – When sleeping your body takes time to restore energy levels, develop tissue, as well as recharge your immune system. Without proper amounts of sleep, you may not able to fight off illness effectively.
- Safety – lack of sleep is often a contributing factor in accidents, both on the road as well as in the air. You not only put your own life at risk, but also the lives of others.
The good news: there are things you can do to get a more restful night’s sleep!
First, you should try to stick to a consistent bedtime and wake time – keeping your body on a consistent clock can help the body learn a routine. Second, make sure you have a cool, dark and quiet environment so you’ll be comfortable enough to rest. An environment that is too hot or too cold, too bright, or too noisy can contribute to tossing and turning. Drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon or evening, exercising too close to bedtime, or partaking in other mentally intense activities may keep you up at night. Also, managing your stress levels can also improve your sleep habits.
People who suffer from insomnia often look for a quick fix — a sleeping pill. For some people, that’s a great short-term solution, but if your insomnia persists you should probably talk to your doctor. He or she might decide the best option for you is to have a sleep study. These tests can determine the underlying cause (if any) of your sleep issues. Common causes include sleep-disordered breathing (Obstructive Sleep Apnea is most common), restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and narcolepsy.
Speak with your physician about the best options to assist you with improving your sleep habits.