Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Health Care and Sleep Deprivation


Have you ever had a bad night's sleep or have had difficulty falling asleep when it's bedtime? Feeling groggy and tired, even exhausted? Often, having a hard time falling asleep may be caused by interruptions in our schedules, an over abundance of stress-especially during the Holidays, or from some health care problems that cause us to lose sleep. Most adults can survive on a few hours sleep per night, but children and teenagers need more because they are still growing and need that extra time in bed.

It's not unusual during the holidays, with all the parties, shopping, travel and preparation according to Health & Wellness Remedy Life.com. Here are some common culprits, and solutions that should soon have you snoozing soundly:

1.) The Problem: Jet Lag--It’s a disruption of your underlying sleep-wake cycle, your internal body clock. And the more time zones you cross, the longer it takes to adjust back. In other words, when your internal clock is out of step with the one ticking away on the wall, you’re going to be sleepy—and not sleepy—at the wrong times. The Fix: Adjust. Before your trip, gradually adjust sleeping and eating hours to those of your destination. Because dehydration makes it tougher for the body to adapt, be sure to drink plenty of fluids on the plane. Follow the schedule of your new destination right away. Plenty of exposure to bright light will help you reset your circadian rhythms. If it’s still light outside, head outdoors for at least 30 minutes whenever you feel sleepy. And be sure to get some exercise, which raises your endorphin levels and can make you feel better.

2.) The Problem: Stress--All those things you didn’t have time to think about during the day come into consciousness the minute your head hits the pillow. The Fix: Make a list. Before bed, sit in a quiet place with pen and paper. Let your mind wander just as it does in the middle of the night, and then spend 10 or 15 minutes writing down everything you need to do. Once it’s written down, you can let it go. When you’re in bed, imagine going down a staircase or riding down an escalator. The lower you go, the more deeply you’ll relax.

3.) The Problem: Wining & Dining--Though alcohol can sometimes help you relax and fall asleep faster, it suppresses REM sleep—and so you wake up feeling groggy. And if you eat too much, your body’s going to be too busy digesting dinner to focus on sleep. The Fix: Time it right. If you simply must have some wine, make sure you finish your last alcoholic drink and any big meal three hours before you plan to sleep.

4.) The Problem: Being Away From HomeAre you a city person spending time at your cousin’s country cabin (or vice versa)? You might find nodding off a challenge. Each of us has a sleep environment we’ve adapted to, and, for some people, any change—even if it’s quieter—can make it difficult to fall asleep. The Fix: Take Control. If noise bothers you, try a pair of earplugs; if lack of noise does, turn on a fan or tune the radio between stations to create white noise. In a hotel, ask for a room far from busy spots such as elevators, stairways, and vending and ice machines. Stretch out your bedtime routine so it really feels like home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. People who are well rested feel alert and do not have the urge to nap as reported by the Nebraska Rural Health and Safety Coalition. If this becomes a chronic problem, sleep deprivation can cause difficulties with social relationships because of irritability; as well as some significant medical problems.

Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on your health in the form of physical and mental impairments. Inadequate rest impairs our ability to think, to handle stress, to maintain a healthy immune system and to moderate our emotions. In fact, sleep is so important to our overall health that total sleep deprivation has been proven to be fatal according to the website SleepDeprivation.net. Without adequate rest, the brain's ability to function quickly deteriorates. The brain works harder to counteract sleep deprivation effects, but operates less effectively: concentration levels drop, and memory becomes impaired. Similarly, the brain's ability to problem solve is greatly impaired. Decision-making abilities are compromised, and the brain falls into rigid thought patterns that make it difficult to generate new problem-solving ideas. And, insufficient rest can also cause people to have hallucinations. Other typical effects of sleep deprivation include:
--Depression
--Heart disease
--Hypertension
--Irritability
--Slower reaction times
--Slurred speech
--Tremors.

The older we get, according to SleepDeprivation.net, the more likely it is that we will suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. In fact, over 50% of people over 64 years old suffer from some type of sleep disorder. While the hormonal and physical changes that occur as we age will likely affect sleep, especially in menopausal women, the increased presence of other medical conditions and disorders is also a factor that tends to upset the sleep of the elderly. One of the biggest sleeping problems the elderly experience is the inability to get deep, restorative sleep. Although they tend to sleep just as much as they did when they were younger, the elderly don’t get as quality sleep, meaning that they often suffer from fatigue and daytime drowsiness. The main reason for this is because older people don’t get as much REM sleep, the deepest, most restorative sleep phase. Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between sleep and aging.

Dramatic weight changes, especially weight gain, are also common effects of sleep deprivation. Because the amount and quality of the sleep we get affects our hormone levels, namely our levels of leptin and ghrelin, many physiological processes that depend on these hormone levels to function properly, including appetite, are affected by our sleep. While leptin is a hormone that affects our feelings of fullness and satisfaction after a meal, ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates our appetites. When you suffer from sleep deprivation, your body’s levels of leptin fall while ghrelin levels increase. This means that you end up feeling hungrier without really feeling satisfied by what you eat, causing you to eat more and, consequently, gain weight.

Sleep is very critical to your health. In olden days, before the light bulb, people slept longer. All those long days everyone seems to endure these days now add up to a lot less sleep. When you suffer from sleep deprivation, your health suffers. Make the best of your night time slumber.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Tina said...

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