Sleep is essential for good health

| June 26, 2014 | 0 Comments
Sleep does not feel restful when someone sleeps in a lighted room, on an uncomfortable cot, with a large dog. (Courtesy photo)

Sleep does not feel restful when someone sleeps in a lighted room, on an uncomfortable cot, with a large dog. (Courtesy photo)

Christine Fukui, Tripler Army Medical Center

Sleep is important, not only because it is part of the Army’s Performance Triad, which focuses on getting adequate levels of sleep, nutrition and exercise, but also because it’s essential for optimum function and health.

During sleep, learning is consolidated and memories are made.

We also know now that toxic waste products produced by the brain while we’re awake are removed during sleep. Some of these, like beta amyloid, have been associated with Alzheimer’s dementia.

Unfortunately, national surveys show that many Americans sleep fewer than seven hours daily. The highest rate is in Hawaii at 45 percent. It should be everyone’s goal, however, to obtain eight hours of sleep nightly.

What if you have insomnia, with difficulty falling and/or staying asleep? What if you awaken too early, or if your sleep does not leave you refreshed?

Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint and can be caused by other sleep problems, like obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. It also can be due to pain, anxiety and depression.

Sometimes, acute insomnia caused by an isolated event — stress, jet lag, changes in work or relationships — becomes “learned” and chronic.

There are some simple things that you can do to help you sleep well:

•First, keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool.

•Keep a regular wake time, even on days off and during the weekend.

•Go to bed only when you are sleepy. If you are unable to fall asleep within 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and do something quiet. Reading is good.

•Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex, not for watching TV, playing games or using the computer. These activities expose your eyes to light, which is the most potent stimulus in keeping you awake.

•Don’t nap during the day, especially late in the afternoon.

•Have a relaxing ritual before sleep, like taking a warm bath, eating a light snack or reading for a short time.

•Exercise regularly; do vigorous exercise in the morning and mild exercise at least four hours prior to sleep, as exercise can keep you awake.

•Try to keep a regular schedule for meals, medication and work to keep your brain’s inner clock running smoothly.

•Avoid large meals before bedtime, and avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime. Remember, caffeine is in tea, soda, energy drinks, some medicines, cocoa and chocolate, in addition to coffee.

•Don’t use alcohol to help you sleep. While you may fall asleep more quickly, alcohol affects sleep quality and causes more awakening during the night.

•Avoid tobacco close to bedtime and during the night, as it will keep you awake.

•Use sleeping pills sparingly.

If you still are having problems sleeping, see your physician so the cause can be investigated. You can be referred to a group class at the Tripler Army Medical Center’s Psychology Department, a multi-week class employing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-i), where you may be helped with stress reduction, relaxation and other methods, like sleep restriction.

(Note: Fukui is a sleep physician.)

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Category: Community, Fitness, Health

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