Dont let stress creep into your bed and rob you of vital sleep time
By BY Aaron Milstone, M.D., Williamson Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine
The month of December can be extra stressful with holiday preparations, added family commitments and general end-of-the-year mayhem, but the good news is you can still get a good night’s sleep. Everything from insomnia to snoring and stress can invade our precious time of rest that our bodies desperately need. Some problems are easier to fix than others, but it’s important to realize how necessary a good night’s sleep really is and to be aware of all the ways inadequate sleep can affect us during the day.
Why do we sleep?
Eight hours is a long time to carve out of a busy schedule. But you need to keep in mind that sleep is the restorative phase of the day for the body. The immune system is enhanced by sleep and it also allows some of the vital organs to rest. Your heart rate and blood pressure are lower when you sleep. Sleep is very important for normal body functions like digestion and bowel function. It is also a critical to how you function during the day. If you are sleep deprived it can have multiple effects. You lose your ability to concentrate and it may cause you to be forgetful. Sleep is essential to restore your body for a new day.
The tired and the restless
Not getting enough sleep can leave you, among other things, feeling groggy, which can affect just about everything you do throughout the day. Grogginess could mean many things. Medications you take at night can carry over to the morning, or interactions between something you ingest like alcohol. You could have sleep apnea when you sleep in a particular position. Maybe the nights you sleep on your side, you don’t have morning grogginess, etc.
Insomnia and depression
Grogginess is not ideal, but it can be minor compared to other conditions that can be caused by lack of sleep. People who suffer from insomnia have a very high rate of depression, and depression itself may cause insomnia. In fact, 50 percent of patients with insomnia can have depression. Start with your primary care physician. If you don’t get the results you are looking for, consider seeing a sleep specialist.
Alternative therapies for insomnia
Here are some easy suggestions for treating insomnia. First and foremost, I think it is critical to maintain a set sleep and wake time. Consistency trains the brain to realize that it is time for sleep. With insomnia, a person lies in bed trying to fall asleep and the mind begins to associate the bedroom with wakefulness, not sleep. If you can’t fall asleep in bed, don’t lie there beyond 10 minutes. Get up and do some mundane task until you get sleepy. Go read a book, for example, but don’t do it in bed.
Is eight hours enough?
What is an ideal amount of sleep that our bodies need? I get this question a lot and the answer is that it depends on your age, but the current accepted amount is seven to eight hours a night for an average adult. If you aren’t in that seven to eight hour window, you could be at risk for diabetes and other problems.
The best way to know the optimal number of hours of sleep you need is how you function during the day. If you have a good energy level, you are getting adequate hours.
Aaron Milstone, M.D. is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary disease, sleep medicine and critical care. He is a physician with Williamson Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine and is on staff at Williamson Medical Center.
Posted on: 12/8/2013