Sleep and Your Health

Ideally, you should wake up in the morning refreshed with no need for an alarm clock or that cup of coffee, and you should feel energetic all day. Not one person I know can say that’s true for them. – acac Nurse Erin Gaertner

Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders account for an overwhelming amount in lost production, accidents, and human lives. Sleep deprivation alone is a large proportion of the problem due to the high paced lifestyles we try to maintain, causing a lack of time to get the sleep we need. Sleep is as important as food and air. Quantity and quality are very important. Most adults need between 7.5 to 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you press the snooze button on the alarm in the morning you are not getting enough sleep. This could be due to not enough time in bed, external disturbances, or a sleep disorder.

What You Can Do

To begin a new path towards healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle, begin by assessing your own individual needs and habits. See how you respond to different amounts of sleep and pay careful attention to your mood, energy and health after a poor night’s sleep versus a good one. Ask yourself, “How often do I get a good night’s sleep?” If the answer is “not often,” then you may need to consider changing your sleep habits or consulting a physician or sleep specialist.

When you do not get the sleep you need, you begin to build up a sleep debt. So if you are losing one hour of sleep a day during the week, by Friday you have a 5 hour sleep debt. We usually make up for this by sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday. It can make for a dangerous Friday night if the person driving has a sleep debt, especially if they have alcohol on top of it. Sleep debt is caused by not having enough time to get the sleep you need, or it is due to a sleep disorder which disrupts sleep.

Though scientists are still learning about the concept of basal sleep need, one thing sleep research certainly has shown is that sleeping too little can not only inhibit your productivity and ability to remember and consolidate information, but lack of sleep can also lead to serious health consequences and jeopardize your safety and the safety of individuals around you.

For example, short sleep duration is linked with:

– Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.
– Increase in body mass index and a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation.
– Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems.
– Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse.
– Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information.
– For women, menopause may lead to hot flashes that interrupt sleep repeatedly.
– Breathing problems like sleep apnea may also begin, especially among overweight people.

Some simple things you can do to help get a better night’s sleep include:

– Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends.
– Try to finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
– Exercise regularly during the day or at least a few hours before bedtime.
– Avoid caffeine and alcohol products close to bedtime and give up smoking.
– Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music.
– Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool and sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
– Use your bedroom only for sleep so keep “sleep stealers“ out of the bedroom and avoid watching TV, using a computer or reading in bed.

For more information, contact Nurse Erin Gaertner or attend her upcoming seminar on March 29th!