Why good sleep matters
There's nothing quite like being well rested. You're happier, more alert, and more productive.
“Sleep is important to your health for many reasons," says Dr. Daniel Levin, a pulmonologist at Summit Health. To develop beneficial sleeping habits, he adds, it's important to consider outside factors like seasonal changes. While some sleep interruptions are temporary, like your body adjusting to the return to standard time, others are more impactful.
Why is sleep so important?
Most of us have tried to get by on an inadequate amount of sleep at one point or another. But acute sleep deprivation affects us in more ways than just bringing on sluggishness.
“The current recommendation for adults between the ages of 25 and 64 is seven to nine hours of sleep," says Dr. Levin. “Six hours is acceptable, but fewer than six isn't recommended."
Sleep is necessary for:
- Replenishment of brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters
- Memory consolidation
- Improved immune response (including to vaccinations)
- Improved response to stress
Those who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation (sleeping less than five hours a night on a regular basis) are at increased risk for:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Viral and bacterial infections
What are the causes of poor sleep?
Many factors can impact how much and how well you sleep. First and foremost, you need to have a schedule that allows you adequate time to sleep. When a person suffers from poor sleep, despite having adequate time for it, there may be an underlying condition that needs to be addressed.
What are the common sleep disorders?
Poor sleep may be caused by conditions such as anxiety, frequent urination, or pain.
When excessive sleep or the inability to sleep deeply are the primary issues, you may have a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders are usually categorized as the following:
- Insomnia - inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Sleep-related breathing disorders – such as sleep apnea, which is caused by many factors, including excessive relaxation of the airways during sleep. This leads to snoring and frequent awakenings with breathing frequently stopping.
- Central disorders of hypersomnolence – this includes disorders such as narcolepsy.
- Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders – this can be impacted by travel between time zones or working different shifts
- Parasomnias – this includes conditions such as night terrors and sleep walking
- Sleep-related movement disorders – sleep can be interrupted by body movements as in periodic limb movement disorder. Additionally, restless legs syndrome, a condition characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs, may make it more difficult to fall asleep
- Other sleep disorders – this includes various other sleep disorders that do not fit into the categories above
How can seasonal changes impact my sleep?
When we transition back to standard time, it may throw some people's internal schedules off. “The good news is that it's easier to make this change now than when we change back to daylight saving time change in March," notes Dr. Levin, “except for the fact that pets don't understand this extra hour of sleep and are happy to wake you for their morning feeding!”
Dr. Levin suggests preparing for the time change several days before. “Three days before the change, go to bed a half-hour later,” he says. “If you normally go to bed at 10 p.m., go to bed at 10:30. The transition will be less intense."
Health benefits of returning to work and school.
As adults slowly return to the office and children go back to school, structured days are becoming normal again. This is a good thing, says Dr. Levin, because going somewhere daily sets a regular schedule. “People who don't have a daily routine tend to have poor sleep and poor eating habits." Even if you’re working from home, include the following in your daily routine:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Eat at the same time every day
- Do some sort of exercise activity, even if it's just a brisk walk around the block
- Give yourself time to relax
If you are concerned about excessive fatigue, daytime sleepiness, or poor sleep in general, talk to your primary care provider or a Summit Health sleep medicine specialist. They can work to find the underlying cause and help you get a better night’s sleep.
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