Sleep and Your Health
Almost five years ago, I gave birth to a wonderful baby girl. Since then, my sleep has changed. I am always surprised by the adaptability of our physiology. I have noticed that if my sleep quality is poor, I become more forgetful. I'll forget my cellphone, forget when I have meetings, and not articulate clearly with patients. These are all common side effects of sleep deprivation. A lack of sleep will lead to changes to our physical health, immune function, mental health, and cognition.
We begin sleeping in utero; lack of sleep as an infant can lead to potential obesity and behavioral problems in children. If sleep continues to be disturbed, this may compromise your health. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society have determined that adults aged 18 to 60 should be getting seven or more hours of sleep per night regularly. Infants, children, and teens should be getting anywhere from 9-14 hours, depending on age.
What does optimal sleep look like? As a physician, I see many patients who come in to address their fatigue. Getting more sleep, for one, would decrease fatigue during the day. Other benefits include:
These benefits are just the start; our circadian rhythm and immune system are very intertwined. One could extrapolate that getting optimal sleep could decrease your risk for autoimmune disease and maybe even cancer.
If you are not getting between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, working on sleep hygiene is always a place to start. Most electronic devices have applications to decrease the bright blue light coming from our many screens, some even with a timer option. Overall decreasing screen time could allow for more relaxation. Keeping a sleep log or journal is a helpful diagnostic tool to share with your physician. Another easy change could be switching coffee and espresso to green tea or avoiding caffeine altogether. If nothing else, being consistent with your bedtimes, even on the weekends might make a big difference.
2. Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Consensus Conference Panel, Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, Bliwise DL, Buxton OM, Buysse D, Dinges DF, Gangwisch J, Grandner MA, Kushida C, Malhotra RK, Martin JL, Patel SR, Quan SF, Tasali E, Non-Participating Observers, Twery M, Croft JB, Maher E, American Academy of Sleep Medicine Staff, Barrett JA, Thomas SM, Heald JL Clin Sleep Med. 2015 Jun;11(6):591-2. Epub 2015 Apr 28.
3. Sleeping like a baby. NDNR, September 5, 2010. Catherine Darley, ND.
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