Last Updated on January 31, 2023 by Andre Panagos M.D.
What is sleep?
Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by altered consciousness, muscle and sensory activity and waste removal. It is a time of complex neurobiological rejuvenation and growth and appears to be universally vital to life throughout the animal kingdom.
What is the role of sleep and why is it so important?
We spend about one third of our lives sleeping and despite our limited understanding of the purpose and mechanism of sleep, we know that like food, water and oxygen, it is critical for life. Sleep plays a vital role in many body functions including immune regulation, metabolism, tissue repair (release of human growth hormone (HGH)), learning and memory.
What are the dangers of chronic sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation contributes to a wide variety of side-effects including cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, heightened pain perception, recurrent infections, poor healing, irritability, anxiety, depression as well as impaired concentration and memory. Severe sleep deprivation can lead to psychosis, confusion and in extreme cases, even death.
How much sleep do I need per night?
The duration of time needed for sleep changes as you age. Infants and adolescents need more sleep to fuel their growth. As you age you may find that you need less and less sleep. Rather than focus on the number of hours spent sleeping, you really should ask yourself if you feel well rested on awakening? If not, you did not get enough sleep. Although we progress through different phases of sleep during the night, it is the deepest stage of non-REM sleep where your body does most of its housekeeping. Recent research has found that the brain clears away waste products at night, which suggests that poor sleep may increase your risk of dementia (Xie, L. et. al 2014). Generally, most adults feel their best with an uninterrupted 7-9 hours of sleep. Most Americans do not get enough sleep according to the CDC (Liu et. al. 2016).
How can I improve my sleep?
If you can improve your sleep, this is one of the best things you can do for your health. Do not get frustrated by the process. Instead, let it come naturally and keep it simple by trying these easy ideas. Remember, you need to train your body to sleep well. You can also use a sleep tracker to keep track of your progress.
|Habits||Develop a bedtime ritual. Consider taking a warm, calming bath.|
|Bedroom||Sleep in a cool and dark room away from noise and distractions.|
Get comfortable by using pillows to support body and wear non-restrictive pajamas.
|Diet||Avoid caffeine, sugar. artificial sweeteners and flour as they can be stimulating.|
Limit fluid intake several hours before bedtime and empty your bladder prior to bed to minimize night-time bathroom trips.
Do not exercise at night as it can keep you awake.
|Home Remedies||Lavender essential oil (a few sprays under pillow or drop of oil on the upper lip)|
Review the day with your loved one.
|Screen time||Avoid television/laptop/mobile screen time two hours prior to bed.|
ICD-10 Code: G47.00 – Anxiety Insomnia, Unspecified
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten HR, Altevogt BM, editors. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2006. 3, Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/
Liu Y, Wheaton AG, Chapman DP, Cunningham TJ, Lu H, Croft JB. Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:137–141. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6506a1
Xie, L., H. Kang, Q. Xu, M. J. Chen, Y. Liao, M. Thiyagarajan, J. O’donnell, D. J. Christensen, C. Nicholson, J. J. Iliff, T. Takano, R. Deane, and M. Nedergaard. “Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain.” Science 342.6156 (2013): 373-77.