How much sleep do we really need?
Much information has been written about sleep – why is it important, how much we need and how we cope in this unprecedented age of information overload and electronic devices. Let’s start with why sleep is important. All life forms on earth spend time in a sleep phase. Sleep is necessary for us to maintain normal metabolic repair and function such as GI health, kidney and urinary health, cell regeneration, bone health, immune system balance, nervous system recharge and brain function. Sleep has also proven to increase the longevity of life. Healthy sleep also helps with pain modulation, our mobility, and a sense of wellbeing. When we sleep well, we have improved problem solving and decision-making skills. We are less likely to need caffeine, sugar or other artificial stimulants to power through the day.
What does the research say?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has recently released information on the research behind why sleep is important and how much sleep we need. One of the findings is less than 5-6 hours of sleep can shorten the life expectancy as can sleeping over 9 hours. But what are the immediate consequences of lack of sleep? According to the NIH research, lack of quality sleep leads to increased need for sleep during the day time hours. Health risks include the increase in cardiovascular health, loss of natural cell turnover for GI and other systems health. But most importantly this results in 50 billion lost in work productivity and 5-6,000 fatal car crashes per year.
Who is at risk?
The studies show that Women are 30% more likely than men to operate under optimal sleep conditions. All of you that have been pregnant, have a young family or have worried over teenagers at night already know the effects of decreased sleep. Women are also at risk due to hormonal changes at various times of their life during their child bearing years, perimenopausal years and into menopause. Sleep also changes for both men and women during normal aging.
What can I do to improve the quality and length of my sleep?
First, ask yourself these simple questions: 1) Do I snore or am I being kept awake by someone else snoring? Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea – and if it continues, this can lead to cardiovascular risk, weight gain, day time fatigue and other health risk factors. It is important to seek information from your physician and perhaps the need for a sleep study. 2) Am I up several times during the night to go to the bathroom? Nocturia – or frequency of night time void is considered abnormal if up more than one time a night. This could be due to an increase of drinking liquids prior to bedtime or caffeine or alcohol intake in the evening. It might be related to sitting for long hours during the day and the need for increased kidney function at night to remove the excess fluid in the legs. If the latter is the case, consult your physician to see if other health risks may be the cause of your nocturia.
Here are some sleep tips to help you if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep during the night:
· Decrease or avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other chemicals that may keep you revved up in the second half of the day. As we age, the ability to metabolize these products takes a longer amount of time.
· BP medicine with diuretics – check with your MD to change the time of day for consuming this medication.
· The sleeping environment
o 1-2 hours before bedtime – begin lowering the lights in your home - Avoid all electronics 1-2 hours prior to bedtime – this is to include all devices that have blue light from back lit screens.
o Keep the bedroom cool, dark (ambient light is OK for some) and as quiet as possible. Some people benefit from “white noise” such as a fan or a white noise machine.
o Your bed is for sleeping or intimacy only. If you read before bed, consider doing so in a chair in your quiet room and move to the bed when you are ready to sleep. Try to avoid watching TV from bed.
· Consistent sleep habits
o Go to bed and get up around the same time every day – including the weekend.
o Set your clock to help reset this behavior in the beginning
o If you wake in the night – do not use visual electronic devices including a tv.
§ Try using books on tape, meditation and relaxation apps, prayer or quiet sounds of nature
§ Try to stay in bed and avoid any stimulating activity.
Services at Embody Physiotherapy & Wellness
Our clinical practice offers full services to reduce pain, stop leaking and gain movement. Sleep is a critical part of any program for health and wellness. Contact us for information and to make an appointment by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us at 412-259-5342. For more information about our integrative practice www.embody-pt.com
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