Getting enough quality sleep at night helps protect your mental and physical health, quality of life, and your safety, explained the National Heart., Lung and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland. Here is why sleep is so important:
1. Emotional Well Being. A good night’s sleep enhances your learning and problem-solving skills. It also helps you to concentrate, make proper decisions, and be creative. Sleep deficiency has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.
2. Physical Health. Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of the hormone ghrelin goes up, and your level of the hormone leptin goes down, which makes you want to eat and possibly put on weight. A sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, thus increasing your susceptibility to diabetes. Your immune system defends your body against viruses and other harmful substances, however, an ongoing sleep deficiency alters the effectiveness of this system, and you may have trouble fighting infections.
3. Daytime Performance and Safety. The loss of 1 or 2 hours of sleep lessens your ability to function normally. Drowsy driving can be more dangerous than being drunk. Sleep deficiency has been linked to many tragic accidents. How much sleep do you need? The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, has some suggestions:
Infants: 9 to 10 hours at night; 3 or more hours in naps.
Toddlers: 9 to 10 hours at night; 2 to 3 hours in naps.
School-age children: 9 to 11 hours.
Adults: 7 to 8 hours.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which you have labored breathing and snoring as you sleep. It often goes undetected during a routine office visit, and this puts you at risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. If you are having trouble with this problem, discuss it with your doctor.
The Mayo Clinic provides some useful tips for getting better sleep.
1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Keep a schedule in which you get up and go to bed at the same time each day. If you don’t fall asleep in 15 minutes after going to bed, get up and do something relaxing until you are ready for bed.
2. Be aware of what you have eaten and drunk. Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol can affect your sleep quality.
3. Create a bedroom ritual. Let your body wind down by taking a warm bath or shower; reading a book, or listening to soothing music.
4. Get comfortable. Create a room that is ideal for sleeping, including comfortable pillows and mattress; room-darkening curtains; ear plugs; a fan, etc.
5. Limit daytime naps. If you are struggling with insomnia, daytime naps can interfere with your nighttime sleep.
6. Physical activity. Regular exercise promotes better sleep, providing it is not too close to bedtime in which you may be too wound-up to go to sleep.
7. Manage stress. Don’t go to bed thinking about all the work you have ahead of you. Try to turn off any recurring mental tapes of what you need to accomplish.
S. C. Gominik of East Texas Medical Center in Tyler, suggests that sleep disorders have become epidemic because of a widespread vitamin D deficiency. Available evidence suggests that valerian might improve sleep quality without producing side effects, according to S. Bent of the University of California at San Francisco. Melatonin may acts as a phase-setter for sleep-wake cycles in those with delayed sleep-phase syndrome, reported M. Dahliyz, University of London in UK. After M. Okawa of the Akita School of Medicine in Japan gave a patient daily doses of 1.5 mg of vitamin B12, his sleep-wake rhythm disorder was improved. Sharon Plank, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for Integrative Medicine, in Pennsylvania, supports chamomile tea; melatonin, valerian, and kava for sleep problems.
“Why Is Sleep Important?” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, MD; Feb. 12, 2013.
“How Many Hours of Sleep Are Enough for Your Health?” Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN; Apr. 20, 2013.
“What Is Sleep Apnea?” NIH Bulletin, July 10, 2013.
“Sleep Tips: 7 Steps to Better Sleep,” Mayo Clinic, Jan. 9, 2014.
Gominik, S. C. “The World Epidemic of Sleep Disorders Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency,” Medical Hypotheses, Aug. 2012, pp. 133-135.
Bent, S. “Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” American Journal of Medicine 19(12):1005-1012, Dec. 2008.
Dahliyz, M. “Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome Response to Melatonin,” Lancet 337(8750):1121-1124, May 1999.
Okawa, M. “Vitamin B12 Treatment for Sleep-Wake Daytime Disorders,” Sleep 13(1):15-23, 1999.