The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has declared that lack of sleep among the US population is an epidemic. In 2016, they reported that more than a third of American adults do not get enough sleep, and things have only grown worse since then. Scientists have proven time and time again that sleep is essential to our overall health, yet many of us fail to get the minimum 7 hours of rest per night.
Insufficient sleep leaves us worn-out and exhausted, struggling not to doze off in the middle of the day. But the consequences of lack of rest go far beyond fatigue. Studies show that those who do not receive enough sleep are more susceptible to medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, depression and hypertension. Some sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea, have been proven to place those who suffer from these conditions at greater risk of car crashes, medical mistakes and industrial accidents.
You may be sleeping, but your body is working to renew itself
While we sleep, pathways form between the nerve cells (neurons) in our brains that help us remember new information. Sleep deprivation interferes with this process, leaving our brains exhausted, and unable to perform at maximum capacity. Scientists have also discovered that our brains clear out toxins significantly faster while we’re asleep than when we’re awake. Insufficient rest has even been proven to prevent our immune systems from fending off intruders, leaving us susceptible to infections and illnesses. Harmful toxins and proteins such as β-amyloid, a precursor to the plaques in Alzheimer’s disease, accumulate while we are awake and are cleared during sleep. Without adequate rest, these toxins can build up over time and result in the development of chronic illnesses.
Tips for getting better rest
Between our countless responsibilities and tasks, it is often difficult to maintain an ample amount of rest. One tip for getting better sleep is to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning. This creates a sense of regularity for your body that will eventually become natural for you. It is also essential to maximize the amount of natural light you get during the day and to exercise regularly. Avoid working out or eating within a few hours of bedtime because it may inhibit your ability to fall asleep. With these small adjustments, you can avoid the side effects of insufficient sleep and decrease the likelihood of developing medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Ultimately, maintaining a quality sleep schedule will increase you quality of life and prevent future health complications.
Who is at risk of sleep deprivation? Maybe you!
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) sleep deprivation affects people of all ages, races and ethnicities. However, some groups of people are more vulnerable than others. You may be more vulnerable to sleep deprivation or deficiency if you:
- Have too little time for sleep. This category includes caregivers or people who work long hours or have more than one job
- Have a schedule that conflict with your internal body clocks. You might be a shift worker, first responder, a teenager who has early school schedules, or if you are someone who must travel for work
- Make lifestyle choices that prevent you from getting enough sleep, such as taking medicine to stay awake, abusing alcohol or drugs, or not leaving enough time for sleep
- Have undiagnosed or untreated medical problems, such as stress, anxiety, or sleep disorders
- Have medical conditions or take medicines that interfere with sleep
- Have medical conditions have been linked to sleep disorders. These conditions include heart failure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke or transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke), depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
If you have any of these conditions, and are frequently tired and sometimes fall asleep without warning, you might benefit from a sleep study. A sleep study can take place in your home or in a specialized sleep center and it allows your doctor to measure how much and how well you sleep. It also helps to discover if you have sleep difficulties and how serious they are. If you do have a sleep disorder, don’t worry, it can be treated. When it is, you’ll be amazed how quickly you can feel better and how much better you’ll feel.
If you are having trouble sleeping or believe you may have a sleep disorder, contact your primary care provider at Premier Medical Group and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.