The Importance of Sleep
One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is sleep. As humans, we spend one-third of our lives sleeping or at least attempting to sleep. The average adult needs at least seven hours per sleep to maintain their health.
Just like food and water, we need sleep to survive. During sleep, our bodies undergo biological processes such as the brain storing new information and ridding itself of toxic waste, reorganization of nerve cells, and repairing cells in our body to restore energy and release hormones and proteins, among others. Without these processes, we cannot function properly.
Not only does sleep impact your physical health, but getting enough quality sleep can impact both your mental health and quality of life as well.
Benefits of Sleep
Sleep plays a huge role throughout your life, both in terms of health benefits and growth and development. It can impact your daily life because the way you feel when you’re awake partially depends on what occurs while you’re sleeping.
Some of the benefits of sleep include:
- Strengthened immune system
- Weight management
- Reduced risk of chronic health problems (i.e., blood pressure, diabetes, etc.)
- Reduced stress
- Energy conservation
- Cellular restoration
- Brain function
- Mental health
Lack of Sleep
While some may prefer to “sleep when they’re dead,” without enough sleep your body will struggle to function properly. Not only does a sleep deficiency put you at increased risk of chronic health problems, but it also puts individuals at risk of injury.
A lack of sleep may lead to mood changes, anxiety, depression, memory issues, lack of focus and concentration, fatigue, weakened immune system, weight gain, high blood pressure, and cardiac issues.
Sleep Disorders and Diagnosis
According to the CDC, about 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. Sleep disorders are a major contributor to chronic conditions such as obesity and depression but are often rarely addressed.
Some of the top sleep disorders, according to the CDC, are:
- Insomnia: characterized by an inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.
- Narcolepsy: excessive daytime sleepiness combined with sudden muscle weakness, which may be characterized as “sleep attacks” or falling asleep suddenly.
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): often associated with aches and pains, causing one to constantly move their leg.
- Sleep Apnea: those with sleep apnea have their breathing momentarily stop and start, often resulting in gasping repeatedly.
It is important to have these disorders evaluated by a healthcare professional; either your primary care provider or a sleep specialist.
To properly diagnose sleep disorders, a polysomnography (sleep study) may be performed. This is a comprehensive test that records brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, heart rate and breathing, as well as eye and leg movements during sleep. These are most commonly performed at a sleep center, or within a hospital, but with the rise in popularity of at-home tests, they may also be conducted in the comfort of one’s own home. The at-home sleep test is most commonly used to diagnose sleep apnea, as it requires fewer sensors.
Polysomnography monitors patients throughout the various sleep cycles to determine if sleep patterns are disrupted and what is causing the disruptions.
In 1998, the National Sleep Foundation established Sleep Awareness Week to raise awareness and educate society about the importance of sleep for overall health and well-being. This initiative kicks off at the start of Daylight Savings Time when we change the clocks to “spring forward” and lose an hour of sleep.
According to the NSF, Sleep Awareness Week promotes best practices for sleep health that include expert guidance and practical tips to help people get the sleep they need. More information can be found at the Sleep Awareness Week website.
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Sleep helps keep us healthy and functioning at the highest level. A lack of sleep, while expected every once in a while, can have detrimental effects on one’s overall wellbeing if it becomes consistent. In all likelihood, we all need more sleep, but if you’re having trouble on a nightly basis, checking in with a healthcare provider may be a benefit.
If you want to learn more about My One Medical Source® (MOMS) and how our platform increases access to testing, contact us today!
**Medically reviewed by Dr. Sona Kirpekar, MD
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