We all know we're supposed to get a good night's sleep, but how often does that really happen? Between work, family, and things that go bump in the night, it's often easier said than done.
Still, mounting evidence will have you wanting to hit the sheets earlier and stay there longer. Dr. Theophanis Pavlou, MD, FCCP, Director of The Center for Sleep Medicine at Holy Name Medical Center, explains why, from your weight to your memory and everything in between, adequate sleep is crucial to overall good health.
Dr. Theophanis Pavlou, MD, FCCP
When you go to sleep, your brain does not. In fact, quite the opposite happens. This is the time your brain actually gets to work engaging in a number of activities that are crucial to life.
Think of it as housekeeping – a time when the brain can cleanse itself of toxins that accumulate during waking hours. While we sleep, the space between brain cells increases, allowing toxic proteins to be flushed out, some of which have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Additionally, sleep serves as a time to re-energize the body's cells, so the body feels recuperated after a long day. If you've ever felt foggy or groggy after too little sleep, you know how important these hours are to fully functioning the next day. Now imagine what a lack of sleep can do over time.
Sleep is vital to the rest of the body, too. When people don't get enough sleep, studies show you face an increased risk of:
- Weight gain: Sleep deprivation can make us hungrier, so we increase our calorie intake to help compensate.
- Cardiovascular disease: Think hypertension and stroke. A lack of sleep can upset the body's ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors.
- Diabetes: Studies show people who reported sleeping fewer than five hours per night had an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Conversely, studies show improved sleep can positively influence blood sugar.
- Inflammation: Sleep deprivation may boost the levels of chemicals that cause inflammation, potentially worsening joint diseases, like arthritis.
- Recurrent colds: If you’re averaging less than seven hours of sleep a night, you’re three times more likely to catch a cold than someone who gets eight hours of sleep or more a night.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, several studies show that insufficient sleep can also affect your life expectancy. Sleeping five or fewer hours per night may increase mortality risk by as much as 15 percent, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
It may be the first thing that suffers from our increasingly busy lives but try not to skimp on your sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of seven to nine hours for adults ages 24 to 64.
There are signs of sleep disorders, which can include sleep apnea, insomnia, and periodic limb movement syndrome. Dr. Pavlou has been practicing pulmonary and sleep medicine for more than 20 years and says these signs can easily be evaluated.
The Sleep Center at Holy Name Medical Center provides professional sleep studies conducted during a pleasant overnight stay at the medical center's hotel-like, state-of-the-art sleep center. To make an appointment with Dr. Pavlou, please call his office at 201-871-3636 or to find out more about the Sleep Center, please visit: holyname.org/SleepCenter/