From the Summer 2012 StayHealthy publication
Skimping on our beauty sleep means more than dark circles. "Sleep deprivation compromises your health in many ways," says Geraldine Feria, MD, with Wanatah Primary Care. Feria specializes in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.
"During sleep our bodies regenerate, rebuild and repair. Apparently our bodies are wired to function relatively well for 12 to 15 hours; then we need to recharge. Depriving your body of this precious sleep puts you at risk for many things," she says. Consider these six reasons why we love our sleep:
1. Subtracting sleep can add pounds
"If you're chronically sleep deprived, it's actually harder to lose weight, because your body is in emergency mode," says Feria. "Plus, when we're sleepy, we're more likely to reach for fast, unhealthy choices to give us a quick burst of energy." This cycle may work in the short term, but it adds up to extra pounds, says Feria. So in a way, our bodies are losing weight while we sleep by maintaining a healthy metabolism.
2. A sleepy head is a foggy head
"Sleep is very important in memory and learning," says Feria. "First, sleep aids in our ability to focus and learn efficiently. But secondly, we know that sleep plays a role in consolidating and organizing our memory, which is key at all stages of life," she says. Sleep deprivation can also make you careless, increasing your risk for accidents.
3. Sleepy = Moody
"Sleeplessness can make us moody and irritable. A lack of sleep can also aggravate depression," says Feria. "You'll improve your disposition and, perhaps, your relationships if you make sure you're rested."
4. Rest Boots our Immune Systems
"During sleep our bodies regenerate. This is when we rebuild and replenish our immune systems. If you're chronically sleep deprived, you're more prone to infection and illness," says Feria.
5. Sleep deprivation is connected to cardiovascular disease
"Sleep deprivation can lead to hypertension and can also increase your blood sugar because sleeplessness increases stress hormones, such as cortisol, which increases your sugar levels," says Feria. "Studies show a strong link between sleep deprivation and cardiovascular disease."
Avoid Superwoman Syndrome
"Unfortunately I see a number of female patients who balance school and family and work. Sleep is the first thing they give up in order to get things done," says Feria. She cautions against trading sleep for efficiency. "Not only are you less effective when you're tired, but you're building up a sleep debt that absolutely must be paid. In the meantime, you're doing damage to your body. I know how hard it is to be a busy woman, but you must make time to sleep," she says.
If you're making time for sleep, yet still struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep, a sleep disorder may be to blame, says Feria. Sleep disorders also lead to a feeling of chronic fatigue even after sleeping. The National Institutes of Health reports that 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-standing sleep disorders- and many remain undiagnosed. In fact, nearly half of those with the deadliest sleep disorder- sleep apnea- remain undiagnosed. This is particularly scary when you consider that untreated sleep apnea has been linked with three of the four leading causes of death- heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Your physician may refer you to Porter's Sleep Disorders Institute to learn more about your own unique sleep cycle. The Institute has new techniques to screen for sleep apnea and more than 70 sleep disorders, maximizing your health and your beauty sleep.
How to Get More Out of Your Sleep
Reduce your sleep latency- the time it takes you to fall asleep- so you can make the most of every restful moment, says Feria. She recommends:
- Make your room a sleepy sanctuary, saving it just for sleep; not watching TV or catching up on work. In this way, your brain becomes trained to sleep when you reach your pillow.
- Limit nighttime eating well before bedtime.
- Exercise earlier in the day, rather than just before bedtime as the kick of adrenaline may interfere with rest.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as they may interfere with sleep.
- If you're not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Go to another room and do something relaxing until you are tired enough to sleep.
Dr. Feria is a member of the medical staff at Porter. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Feria at Wanatah Primary Care, call 219.733.2755.