By Dr. Prashant Makhija
While we spend one-third of our lives sleeping, there’s poor awareness amongst the general population about the importance of sleep. In an increasingly competitive world and 24-hour society model, sleep is often considered unnecessary. Recently American Heart Association included Sleep health as essential for cardiovascular health, which shows it plays a key role in our overall health.
What Are The Functions Of Sleep:
- Restoration – During Sleep protein synthesis is accelerated which helps repair damaged tissues, also there is increased secretion of Growth hormone which aids in cellular repair
- Energy conservation– With reduced physical activity and metabolism, helps conserve energy
- Memory consolidation – Adequate sleep improves memory whereas poor sleep leads to reduced attention span in the daytime and contributes to a decline in memory, also with poor sleep, one needs to spend more time to acquire the same skill
- Glymphatic system – This is a waste clearance mechanism in the brain which becomes more active in sleep and clears the toxic proteins produced by neurons
- Immune regulation – Sleep reboots our immune system…those with poor sleep hygiene have a higher propensity to catch bacterial and viral infections and are more likely to fall sick
- Thermoregulation – sleep is important for the maintenance of body temperature
What Is Good Quality Sleep; How Much One Should Sleep:
Duration, depth and consistency are the three important determinants of good quality sleep; it should not be adequate in duration but also in-depth and it should be consistent.
With the age requirement for sleep decreases, new-borns spend up to 16 hours in sleep and it occurs in multiple phases i.e. polyphasic whereas school-going children have diphasic sleep and they require 11-13 hours of sleep; adults usually have monophasic sleep with 7-8hrs of night-time sleep; again elderly >65yrs may have diphasic sleep with a total duration of 6-8hrs.
Consequences Of Poor Sleep:
Short-term: Poor sleep can result in difficulty concentrating. It also impairs memory and judgement. Hand-eye coordination is impaired. Impatience, Irritability and mood swings are frequent and a person becomes more emotional.
Long-term: It can have more bad effects like obesity. For those who are trying hard to lose weight, It is very important that they take adequate sleep; apart from several other factors which are responsible for weight gain with sleep deprivation. Poor sleep also creates an imbalance of Ghrelin-Leptin. With sleep deprivation, Ghrelin is released from the gut resulting in increased hunger and food craving, with adequate sleep, Leptin released from fat cells induces satiety.
There are serious ailments like – Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, poor immune function, and cognitive impairment that can develop because of long-term poor sleep habits.
One should know when it becomes important to consult a sleep specialist. Here are four common scenarios when it becomes necessary to seek advice from a specialist.
- Insomnia – A condition when one has trouble falling asleep or has frequent awakenings in the middle of the night leading to poor quality of sleep
- Hypersomnia – A condition wherein an individual sleeps too much and may also have a tendency to sleep in the daytime. One may have episodes of extreme sleepiness in odd situations such as at the workplace, school or while driving.
- Parasomnia – If one shows abnormal behaviours in sleep such as eating in the middle of the night, sleepwalking, acting out dreams
- Sleep-related breathing disorders – If you snore loudly in sleep, wake up in the middle of the night feeling out of breath or your bed partner has observed that your breathing pauses in the middle of sleep then you may be suffering from sleep apnea
Poor sleep can be a manifestation of an underlying medical disorder and also by itself lead to disastrous health consequences. One should not ignore sleep health and if suffering from the above sleep issues, one should consult a Sleep specialist.
Sleep Hygiene One Needs To Follow To Have A Healthy And Holistic Life
Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, even during the weekends or during vacation as minimises the tendency for Insomnia. Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings – in particular the blue light (TV, mobiles and tablets, laptops) which acts as an alerting signal for the brain and can result in delayed sleep onset. Also, make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. The mattress should be of good quality and the temperature should be comfortable. Avoid office work and planning for the next day in the bedroom as the room is only for sleep. Reduce the bedtime, avoid going to bed unless sleepy and spending more than 20 minutes in bed can further delay the onset of sleep.
Check on your intake of caffeine and avoid coffee/tea late in the afternoon or evening, also avoid alcohol intake during bedtime- although it can reduce the sleep latency, it is sleeping architecture. Reduce fluid intake before bedtime as it will reduce the chances of nocturnal urinary urges in the elderly. And the foremost is to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
The author is Consultant Neurologist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central.
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