Friday, March 25, 2016

SLEEP AND HEALTH EFFECTS: MORE THAN WE THOUGHT IT WAS

Oxford dictionary defines sleep as “a condition of body and mind which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed and consciousness are practically suspended”.

Mirriam-Webster sees it “as the neutral periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored”.

The MacMillan dictionary for students defines sleep as “a naturally recurring state characterised by reduced or absent consciousness, relatively suspended sensory activity and inactivity of nearly a voluntary muscle”.

A slightly more scientific definition can be found in Stedman’s Medical Dictionary which sees sleep as “a natural periodic state of the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli”.

The common threads in these descriptions, which appear to be necessary element in the definitions of sleep, are:

·         It is a naturally occurring state
·         It is periodic and recurring
·         It involves both the mind and the body
·         It involves the temporary suspension of consciousness
·         It involves relaxation and inactivity of muscles

We can see how sleep is an integral part of our overall health and mental well-being. Sleep helps our brain to function well. When we are sleeping, a lot of healing goes on, our brain gets ready for the following day. But when we do not sleep, we create health problems that are acute and chronic. When we do not sleep, we are susceptible to taking very wrong decisions; we become so irrational in thinking, leads to accident and business failure through inability to make the right decisions. We most times feel we are supermen when we burn candles into late nights working, most of us even brag about it “you cannot believe I slept at 2.00am this morning”. Bravo to you! Your friends see you as a hard working superman but you can never quantify the cumulative harm you are doing to health.

It is important to know that adequate sleep improves:

·         Learning
·         Problem solving and decision making
·         Emotional health

In terms of physical health:

·         It keeps our organs healthy
·         It regulates hormones. Some people feel hungry when they are not sleeping
·         Sleep deficiency can also make people more prone to infections and reduce their immunity, this makes infection last longer
·         Daytime performance and safety is also impacted by lack of sleep. Productivity and reaction time slows down as well.
·         There are also evidences of micro sleep – people sitting in classes, meetings or conferences and dosing off. With this, you lose touch with details and this affects your decisions and your ability to learn new things.
·        Inadequate sleep increases accidents on the roads and even in workplaces mostly amongst machine operators and those doing night rotation shifts.

So which ever balances the issue of sleep are weighed, it is safer to have adequate sleep knowing that our body will surely malfunction by the absence of sleep. We always think we have cheated nature by using the night meant for sleep and rest for the work we brought home from our offices. The body always have a way of demanding for it and we struggle with repayment, it is like paying for a loaf of bread already eaten. How difficult this always turns out. But we need to know there is a regulator called the “circadian rhythm” which is often referred to as the “body clock”. This is a 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep and when to be awake. So this body clock waits for you in the day time to demand for the sleep owed during the night hours, this is why you see most people having micro sleep and dosing off at intervals during work.

WHO IS AT MOST RISK FOR INADEQUATE SLEEP?

·         People with limited time to sleep – Busy business men and Chief Executives
·        People whose schedules conflict with their internal body clocks. Examples are shift workers or people who travel throughout the night
·       Lifestyle choices that prevent people from getting enough sleep, examples are people who use drugs, caffeine and alcohol to stay awake
·         Medical problems such as anxiety, stress and sleep disorders
·         When we are on medications that interferes with our sleep

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE REALLY NEED?

Classification
Age
Recommended Hours of Sleep
The Elderly
>65 years
7 – 8 Hours
Adults
26 – 64 years
7 – 9 Hours
Young Adults
18 – 25 years
7 – 9 Hours
Teenagers
14 – 17 years
8 – 10 Hours
School Age
6 – 13 years
9 – 11 Hours
Pre-School Age
3 – 5 years
10 – 13 Hours
Toddlers
1 – 2 years
11 – 14 Hours
Infants
4 – 11 months
12 – 15 Hours
New-born
0 – 3 months
14 – 17 Hours

These are the recommended hours of sleep based on age classification, but you will realised we are never able to meet these hours of sleep. The more we drift out of these brackets, the more our immunity is affected making us vulnerable to infections and even making infections last longer than necessary. Getting enough sleep is very crucial to our overall wellbeing.

LONG AND SHORT TERM EFFECTS OF SLEEP

·         Inability to concentrate
·         Lack of patience
·         Increased intake of high fat and high sugar food
·         Increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, hypertension and stroke
·         Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes
·         Clinical depression
·         Increased risk of hormonal changes leading to lose of muscle and bone mass with aging

IMPROVING YOUR SLEEP

Maintain sleep hygiene: Make your bed room a place for sleep and not an extension of your office. Go into the bed room only when you are ready to sleep, go in with a conscious mindfulness that you are going to sleep. Leave every work and task behind and switch off the lights before getting into the bed.

You must make conscious efforts to make your bed room and your bed look attractive and inviting, do not treat your bedroom without concern and see it as a very important place where you end your day. Some people sleep better in hotel rooms than they do in their homes, the difference is only the sleep environment. You can make yours also relaxing.

You need to develop a sleep pattern, maintain roughly the same bed time and wake time throughout the entire week. Your body over time gets used to this timing.

Keep your bedroom dark and cool, keeping all kinds of lights out. If you must use light, use “sleep friendly” light bulbs. Television in the bedroom is a great source of distraction leading to sleep deprivation.

Do not use the bed as a dining table or desk; it defiles the term “BED”. This makes our bed attractive to ants and other crawling insects that in turn disturb our sleep.

Most importantly, do not bring in your gadgets or phones into your bed room when you are ready to sleep. If you must bring them in, you either switch them off or put them on silence mode. One email or an sms that drops into your phone can deprive you of sleep the entire night. Yes, global economies but your health must not be made to melt with it.

SCHEDULING YOUR MEALS AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

·         Avoid caffeine 4 – 6 hours before bed time. It is advisable to avoid coffee after lunch time.
·         Avoid alcohol 3 – 4 hours before bed time
·         Do not eat large or high fat meals within 2 – 3 hours of bed time
·         Include some exercise every day but avoid vigorous exercise 2 – 3 hours before bed time
·         Learn mindfulness and meditation techniques to help you relax.

TRACKING SLEEP

Sleep diary: Popularly known as written log. You can use this to know the number of hours you sleep every day. Keep a sheet by your bed side, when you are ready to sleep write the time down, each time you wake up to use the convenience write wake up time and sleep time. This will help you know how many hours of sleep you are getting and how consistent it is.

Tracking device: These are electronic devices worn on the wrist, ankle, chest or head. It depends on the one you find convenient. It helps you track your hours of sleep, some of them also track both your stress level and your heart beat.

Smart Phone Apps: A number of these sleep tracking applications are on Play Store in your mobile phones, you can download them and use them to track your sleeping pattern.
Medical Evaluation is necessary if you suffer from severe sleep deprivation or disorders.

WHAT IS POOR SLEEP

When we talk about poor sleep, we are talking about a number of sleeps and sleep related disorders. Prominent amongst these are insomnia and chronic insomnia.

Insomnia is defined as a state of habitual sleeplessness or inability to sleep. This affects about 10% of a population.

Sleep Apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. This ultimately affects your inability to getting good enough sleep. Sleep apnea affects 20% of a population and many people have sleep apnea without knowing. It is important to always seek a Physician's review.

Restless Legs Syndrome: If you have followed us in our earlier publication in the same blog, you would have seen the article we published on restless legs syndrome. This is a must-read.

Restless Legs Syndrome popularly known as RLS, is a neurological disorder characterised by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them. One of the causes of RLS is excessive use of excess high heels shoes which is fast becoming a global workplace concern. This has a strong relationship with the duration of use, frequency of use and height of the heels. Ladies are more involved in this, though these heels make they look really elegant but the health risks must also be weighed. When these unpleasant sensation starts, it will surely deprive you of sleep. According to studies, 5% of a population suffers from RLS.

Another is Circadian Rhythm Disorders which has 2% prevalence within a population group and this also leads to sleep lose and sleep deprivation.

Narcolepsy is a condition that is prevalent in 20% od a population. Narcolepsy is a condition characterised by an extreme tendency to fall asleep whenever in relaxing surroundings. This is witnessed everyday all around us, most common in new born.This further shows the relationship between sleep and relaxed environment, so we must strive to make our bedrooms more relaxing so we can sleep better.

This topic continues in our next publication, you need to stay tuned for the concluding part.

You can reach us using ehi@ohsm.com.ng






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