How Inadequate Sleep Can Affect Health

Getting a good night’s sleep is something most people strive for, yet in the United States, it’s estimated that 50-70 million adults have some sort of sleep disorder. The most common of which, insomnia, is trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Many children and teens are also sleep-deprived according to a study by the CDC, which found that 7 out of 10 high school students and 6 out of 10 middle school students don’t get enough shut-eye.

Why is sleep important?

Besides bolstering overall health and well-being, sleep helps the brain prepare for the next day. This results in improved focus, mood, problem-solving skills and mental sharpness. Sleep is also involved in the healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels, and regulating hormones that control hunger and blood sugar. Plus, sleep is important in helping maintain brain health as people age. Inadequate sleep can lead to forgetfulness, irritability, looking and feeling run-down, and depression.
According to the CDC, children and teens who don’t get adequate sleep are at greater risk for:
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Poor mental health
  • Injuries
  • Attention and behavior issues, which can impact academic performance

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is defined as short pauses in breathing while sleeping. These interruptions of breathing usually last 10 seconds or more and occur repeatedly throughout the night. It is estimated that 22 million adults in the U.S. have sleep apnea, and it is most common among men over 40. Symptoms of sleep apnea may include: restless sleep; loud snoring followed by silence and gasps for air; mood or behavior changes; anxiety, forgetfulness and/or depression.

Is sleep apnea a serious condition?

According to the National Institute of Health, untreated sleep apnea can be life-threatening. Not only can it cause excessive sleepiness during waking hours, putting the individual at risk for falling asleep while driving, it can also increase their risk for stroke, memory loss, and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or “mini-strokes”). It is also associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and other cardio conditions.

What treatments are available?

Depending on the severity of the condition, treatments may include lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol, losing weight, if needed, or using special devices.

11 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

  1. Don’t drink or eat caffeine less than 3 hours before bedtime
  2. Turn off screens (phones, laptop, TV, and other electronics) at least an hour before you want to fall asleep
  3. Dim lights and limit noise, unless it’s soft instrumental music, or sleep-inducing sounds
  4. Have some chamomile herbal tea (non-caffeinated)
  5. Finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime
  6. Don’t take a nap in the afternoon
  7. Avoid alcohol before bed – it can actually deplete you of deep, REM sleep
  8. Keep your room cool (but not too cold)
  9. Stay on schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to avoid difficult adjustments in sleep patterns
  10. Take a warm bath before bed
  11. If you’re still feeling restless, get up and do something relaxing, such as reading, until you feel sleepy.
If you frequently experience trouble sleeping, see a doctor. It may be something that can easily be addressed. A rested body is a healthier, higher functioning one, so make it a priority for healthy living.

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