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Examiner
  • The sleep debt

  • May is Better Sleep Month, dedicated to encouraging people to develop better sleeping patterns. Sleep, as science continues to reveal, is a precious commodity. As with diet and exercise, sleep is crucial to our physical, emotional and mental health.

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  • May is Better Sleep Month, dedicated to encouraging people to develop better sleeping patterns. Sleep, as science continues to reveal, is a precious commodity. As with diet and exercise, sleep is crucial to our physical, emotional and mental health.
    Studies have shown that people who slept less than six hours a night for a week had substantial changes in the activity of their genes that govern the immune system, metabolism, sleep and wake cycles, as well as the body's response to stress. Stress can elevate blood pressure which is connected to heart attacks and stroke. At the least, the release of stress hormones can make it harder to sleep, perpetuating an unhealthy sleep cycle.
    These changes, which affected more than 700 genes, suggest that poor sleep could have a huge impact on your long-term wellbeing. The research may shed light into our biological mechanisms that raise risk factors for many diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and depression. All from too little sleep.
    A Better Sleep Council study shows the main consequences of lack of sleep in the workplace include a huge decline in quality of work, judgment and concentration. It's estimated that poor sleep costs U.S. businesses about $150 billion through absenteeism and lost productivity.
    How do you know if you're getting enough sleep, especially good sleep? If any of the following apply to your situation, chances are you are sleep deprived:
    Stress - Does stress frequently keep you up at night?
    Mood swings - Do normal, manageable situations make you irritable?
    Vision problems - Do you experience distortions, problems focusing or with peripheral vision?
    Increased appetite - Do you find it increasingly difficult to resist food cravings?
    Decision making - Do you have difficulty making decisions, or make poor decisions?
    Relationship problems - Does your bed mate no longer share the bed because of snoring?
    Memory/ Concentration issues - Have you become forgetful, or have difficulty concentrating at work?
    Fatigue - Are you frequently tired in the afternoon?Getting to the bottom of the exact culprit may require a visit with your doctor to rule out any physical or medical issues. Your doctor may also want you to undergo a sleep study. The Sleep Center at St. Mary’s provides such studies and even offers home testing to determine if a common sleep disorder like obstructive sleep apnea might be at fault.
    Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. This causes shallow breathing, or breathing pauses and snoring?is common. ??
    Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Most who have sleep apnea don't know they have it because it only occurs during sleep and is often first noticed by a family member or bed partner.
    Page 2 of 2 - Even if you aren't afflicted by a sleep disorder, getting good, quality sleep may require some work, or at least some experimenting. Many experts believe we should be getting between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep each night. However, those same experts believe 6 hours of deep uninterrupted sleep is more beneficial than 8 hours of light intermittent sleep.
    Establish a consistent sleep schedule by sleeping and waking at the same time each day of the week - even on weekends. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day leaves you more refreshed and energized than sleeping the same number of hours at different times.
    Try relaxing before turning in. Prior to sleep, limit stimulating activities such as exercise.
    Your place of sleep should be kept dark, and at a comfortable temperature. The American Medical Association recognizes that exposure to light at night, including lights from computer screens and other electronics, can disrupt sleep, particularly in children and teens.
    Healthy lifestyles of exercise and a diet can improve sleep. Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine close to bed time. While some people insist it helps them relax, it can disrupt your sleep throughout the night.
    Andy Portwood is Sleep Lab Technical Supervisor sleep clinician with St. Mary's Medical Center Sleep Clinic. He can be reached at 816-655-5394.
     
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