January 7, 2014
SIU med school physician treats sleep deprivation
Many people are proud of the fact that they accomplish more in a day than their peers, but are they making time for a good night’s sleep? Having a Type A personality and very hectic or erratic schedule with work, family and other activities can prevent people from getting a sufficient amount of sleep.
“Some people mistakenly think sleeping is a waste of time. But getting adequate sleep is necessary for the body to function at peak capacity,” said Dr. Joseph Henkle, professor and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, about one-third of American adults do not get the necessary amount of sleep for good health. “One can suffer sleep deprivation acutely by getting little or no sleep for a night or two,” said Henkle. “Or one can experience it chronically by getting less sleep than needed over a period of weeks or longer.” Sleep deprivation also occurs from poor sleep quality which may be caused by sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
Lack of adequate sleep can be linked to fatigue and decreased performance, which can lead to increased risk of accidents and even death. Excessive sleepiness is a major cause of vehicle crashes. It also can contribute to decreased work productivity, memory loss, irritability and depression.
Sleep is not a passive state where we are simply at rest. “Unique hormonal and physiological conditions are linked to the sleep state and adequate function of these processes requires sufficient amounts of ‘good’ sleep,” said Henkle. “Chronic sleep loss can result in medical problems including increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and metabolic changes.” The body’s immune function may be negatively impacted by inadequate sleep with a decreased ability to respond appropriately to viral infections. Decreased sleep also can lead to increased hunger for calorie-rich foods with high carbohydrate content leading to weight gain.
Henkle recommends seven to eight hours of sleep per day for most adults. He offers these suggestions for getting better sleep.
• Keep a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
• The bedroom should be a comfortable and desirable place that promotes sleep – quiet, dark and cool. Turn off the TV, radio and computer.
• Pets should be kept out of the bedroom because they can disrupt sleep.
• Wind down with quiet activity such as reading approximately 30 – 60 minutes prior to going to bed.
• Engage in regular exercise, at least three to four hours prior to bedtime.
• Maintain a healthy diet. Caffeine should not be consumed within six hours of bedtime. Large meals should not be eaten within three hours of going to bed.
• Avoid alcohol and nicotine for several hours before bed.
If adequate sleep does not restore energy and a sense of well-being, an evaluation for a sleep disorder may be needed. Talk to your primary care provider about treatment options. You may be referred to a sleep specialist.