Sleep is an essential part of healing, cognitive functions, and physical performance. Without proper rest, the mind becomes less resilient. Resiliency, the ability to overcome challenges as they occur, is crucial to learning and thriving in any environment.
Sleep health affects almost every part of the body. Conditions that affect sleep can lead to further health complications that require hospitalizations or medicine to overcome. These are some of the most common sleep disorders that impact the quality of life and cognitive functions.
SLEEP-DISORDERED BREATHING (SBD)
Sleep-disordered breathing, also known as SBD, refers to sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea. Signs of SBD include chronic snoring, daytime tiredness, and an increased chance of bedwetting. SBD is treated with breathing machines, medicine, or surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids. The cause of SBD varies, but it is mostly attributed to narrow breathing ways.
Non-breathing-related sleep disorders include insomnia, night terrors, sleep paralysis, restless leg disorder, and narcolepsy. These disorders disrupt sleep patterns and can also be disruptive to partners if they share the same bed. In addition, because sleep disorders can cause irritability and lead to mood disorders, living with one can erode personal and professional relationships.
CHRONIC SHORT SLEEP
Short sleep prevents a person from getting an unbroken nighttime rest. Sleep occurs in stages, and being unable to reach deep sleep leads to erosion of brain function. A person with chronic short sleep, also known as CSS, gets less than six hours per night. Over 40 million people are affected by this condition.
WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF SLEEP?
Rapid eye movement (REM) is the last stage of sleep. It’s preceded by three stages classified as non-rapid-eye-movement, NREM. Here’s the breakdown of each stage.
STAGE ONE NREM
Stage one is a transitional stage in which the body and brain prepare for sleep and mind relaxation. A person can be easily awoken during this stage and may still maintain some level of consciousness. Stage one accounts for up to 5% of the time spent asleep. During this period, the body produces calming and relaxation chemicals to better transition out of wakefulness.
STAGE TWO NREM
In stage two, a person is visibly sleeping, and there’s little to no conscious brain activity. Studies show that stage two NREM is closely related to the brain’s ability to learn and store information during sleep. Individuals learning a skill may show increased activity in the brain’s learning centers during stage two sleep. This stage accounts for 50% of sleep.
STAGE THREE NREM
Building upon the previous stage, stage three NREM helps the brain consolidate and store memory and new information. During stage three, a person enters slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep, which also occurs in REM, is when a person’s brain activity slows and the healing properties of sleep begin to kick into effect.
During the rapid eye movement stage, a person becomes somewhat paralyzed after entering the final sleep stage. In REM, a person begins to dream. Another benefit of REM sleep is the restorative processes that occur. Initial REM sleep may only last a few minutes but as the sleep progresses, so does the length of REM. REM sleep is essential to getting a good night’s sleep and combatting daytime tiredness.
GOOD SLEEP AND MENTAL HEALTH
The connection between sleep and mental health is a critical one. Chronic sleep deprivation can aggravate anxiety and depression. Within a day of bad sleep quality, cognitive functions begin to shut down noticeably. Here are some of the biggest boons to getting a good night’s rest.
Without proper sleep, white matter can build up in the brain. Excess white matter can lead to confusion, an inability to communicate, and a hard time focusing. By balancing out positive brain chemicals, neurons can send signals faster and with less error. The results include improved focus and concentration.
Poor sleep also reduces energy levels, and having an irregular sleep cycle can result in oversleeping for work and other events. People with sleep issues may have a more challenging time finding the motivation for day-to-day tasks.
IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH
Unhealthy sleeping habits can increase the risk of someone developing anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Moreover, poor sleep erodes one’s ability to make rational decisions and think clearly.
IMPROVE IMMUNE FUNCTION
One of the reasons adverse sleep health can lead to medical complications is because poor sleep weakens the immune system. The body makes a series of chemicals used to maintain homeostasis. Individuals with bad sleep miss out on these chemicals resulting in a higher chance of illnesses.
GOOD SLEEP AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
Good sleep does more than rejuvenate the mind and spirit. Here are the essential effects of “catching Zzz’s” for the body.
Inflammation occurs when the body begins to fight off an infection. However, a compromised immune system may attack itself if it views itself as a foreign substance. Inflammation can cause tiredness, headaches, and muscle pain. Sleep boosts the immune system and prevents severe symptoms of inflammation.
Poor sleep throws off the body’s natural chemistry causing, among other things, an increase in cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol can cause hypertension and faster heart rates. In addition, undue stress on the heart can create several other health complications.
Poor sleep increases blood pressure. High blood pressure leads to chest pain, breathing issues, and increases the chance of further illness.
Routinely getting less than seven hours of sleep can cause the body to become resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance can lead to an out-of-tune appetite, which results in overeating and undereating.
Because sleep patterns impact so many bodily functions, sleep disorders often cooccur with equally serious illnesses such as chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease affects over 35 million people per year, and up to 75% of them experience sleeping issues leading up to their diagnosis. The connection between sleep and kidney disease can be tied to the hormonal imbalance brought on by lack of sleep.
Issues with appetite regulation stemming from bad sleep habits happen because of an overproduction of brain chemicals tied to one’s appetite. The result is increased hunger, which more than often can lead to overeating. In addition, overeating can worsen the effects of bad sleep, such as heart issues and high blood pressure.
Glucose metabolism is a general term for multiple bodily systems that regulate appetite and energy levels. Like any bodily system, glucose metabolism is dependent on multiple chemicals and factors to maintain healthy levels. Without good sleep, one or more of these systems begin to fail.
One way to ensure your metabolism is healthy is focusing on the microbes and overall gut health. Your gut communicates with your brain and plays a prominent role in mood and thinking. However, chronic sleep deprivation severs the connection and hampers sleep and mind functions.
TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP
Here are some of the best tips to get better sleep. These tips are not listed in order of relevance, but rather they are helpful methods to start implementing when trying to get some rest at night.
Winding down means dimming the lights, getting off your phone, and preparing your mind and body for rest. As mentioned earlier, stage one NREM is a transitionary stage, and to enter it, the mind must be in a calm and relaxing environment. Because stage one is easily disrupted by light and sound, you have a better chance of getting good sleep by turning off the television and relaxing.
Sleep patterns are just that – cycles and set routines. When you consistently go to bed and wake up at the same time, the body gets on a schedule. As a result, you’ll naturally get tired as you near your self-imposed bedtimes. Disrupting your sleep pattern can cause insomnia and daytime tiredness.
WATCH YOUR DIET
Diets high in sugar, caffeine, and other stimulants prevent your body from relaxing. Moreover, certain dietary staples contain chemicals that assist the body in getting sleep. A glass of milk, for example, is good before bed due to its high level of tannins which in turn create melatonin, causing a better night’s sleep.
Comparatively, many people drink a “nightcap” to assist in sleeping, but alcohol intake can disrupt sleep stages. If you’re suffering from sleep issues and are unsure what’s causing it, then it’s a good idea to review your diet.
Exercise expands the body’s energy and practically forces it into a relaxed mode after a workout is completed. Exercising two to three hours before bedtime can help improve sleep.
It cannot be stressed enough how bad electronics are before bed. Music, television, and video games are all designed to keep your attention. Loud noises, bright colors, etc., distract you and cause your brain to engage with external stimuli, which is one of the last things you want to do before sleeping. While a blue light filter can assist, staying off your phone is the superior option.
GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
If you are eating right, exercising, and winding down but still experience sleep issues, then it is time to see a professional. Nutritionists, trainers, sleep doctors, and therapists are all good options to uncover what’s keeping you up at night.
DIAGNOSE TO RULE OUT MEDICAL PROBLEMS
Many sleep disorders can be caused by hormonal imbalances or maybe a side effect of a more severe condition. Talk with your doctor to rule out the more extreme reasons you’re getting bad sleep.
Treatment for sleep health issues varies by disorder and individual. Common options include breathing machines, prescription medication, meditation, and an exercise routine. If you are prescribed sleep medication, remember not to mix it with other drugs and avoid alcohol entirely while under the effects of sleep medication. Chronic sleep deprivation can be harmful and cause long-term changes. Seek help if you feel your sleep is compromised.
The body and brain need good sleep to function, and sleep duration must last at least seven hours. If you continuously wake up groggy, you may be waking in the middle of a late-stage sleep cycle. Downloading a sleep alarm clock may be beneficial as it will wake you up at the best possible time in your sleep pattern.
The information presented on this page is a general overview and is offered here as a resource. At Ampelis Health, each client meets with our medical team to determine treatment protocols based on individual circumstances.
If you would like to learn more about Ampelis Health or have additional questions, feel free to call.
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