Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Get Your Sleep

Sleep deprived are more likely to be obese and have medical problems

Millions of Americans only get five to six hours of sleep each night, not knowing that maintaining such sleep patterns can cause them to be dangerously overweight, resulting in many medical and health issues.

If you're sleep deprived, you're more likely to be overweight, and if you're both, you're more likely to be at risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular complications.

But it doesn’t end there. “If you sleep less than six hours a night, you are 15 to 20 percent more likely to be overweight or obese,” says Pete Bils, Director of Clinical Research for Select Comfort, who has conducted 15 sleep studies on quality of sleep.

A healthy sleeping pattern means going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning, without an alarm clock, approximately seven to eight hours later.

“If you can lie down in a quiet, cool dark room anytime during daytime and fall asleep, especially within 5-8 minutes, you are sleep deprived,” says Bils.

And if you’re already significantly overweight, you may be at higher risk for sleep deprivation, according to Dr. Carol Ash, medical director of the Sleep for Life Program at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, NJ. “Obese people tend to be too warm [body temperature] and that can interfere with restful sleep.”

Moreover, Ash says people who are continuously tired may tend to eat more to try to stay energized or eat more simply because they are awake more hours of the day, which can lead to weight gain. But there is also a growing area of research to suggest that being sleep deprived affects your weight issues on a hormonal level. “Without sufficient sleep, leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite is reduced in the body while grehlin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, is increased,” she says. Some studies have found that these hormonal changes may also increase cravings for high carbohydrate sweets and salty foods.

Bils says often times society views people who sleep less and work more as more productive or successful, but that quite the opposite is true. “That’s what I call societal sleep deprivation — sleep deprivation by choice,” he says.

“There’s a state of denial, and people think it’s normal until it gets to the point that it negatively affects your daytime functioning. And if that happens when they are behind the wheel, you don’t know what could happen.”

When the experience of sleep is that only minutes have passed between sleep and waking is healthy. If you’re aware of the sleep process, such as waking often during the night or tossing and turning, you’re not getting totally restorative rest.

Ash says the United States is a “nation in a sleep crisis.” She cites the primary social reasons for sleep deprivation as the advent and technology and increased time at work. “Before electricity was discovered, most people wound down their daily activities when darkness fell because they had no real choice,” she says. “Today we live in a 24/7 society, and TVs, computers and video games are competitors for our time.”

There are also biological reasons for sleep deprivation including sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia, both of which may need medical treatment.

The side effects of sleep deprivation can also translate into other kinds of problems in the bedroom—and we’re not talking about sleep. It can have negative effects on your sex life. “A sleep deprived person does not have the energy to tend to the needs of his or her partner,” says Dr. Joyce Walsleben, head of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at New York University. She says the mental stress that goes along with being sleep deprived should also not be overlooked and can lead to depression and mood changes.

Walsleben says that despite the numerous negative effects of sleep deprivation, it’s something that can be changed with some minor life changes. “Sleep deprivation can be prevented by giving sleep as much importance as food and water,” she says.

“Start adding 15 minutes of sleep each night for a week, then another 15 minutes the following week until you feel better. Small nightly additions help over time without disrupting schedules.”

Tips on how to get a better night’s sleep:

* Gradually dim your atmosphere, mimicking the onset of night in the time before our homes had electricity.
* Create a quiet environment. Abrupt changes in sound will disrupt your sleep.
* Don't try to sleep with the TV on. It’s bright and loud.
* Keep humidity at 65 percent.
* Keep it cool: your body must be “thermally neutral” for optimal sleep, in 65 to 70 degree F temperatures.
* A good air purifier will help.
* Don’t eat before bed. Digestion raises body temperatures, resulting in poor sleep.
* No caffeine for seven hours before bed! (It has a half life of seven hours. Wow.)
* Get a better pillow and mattress. Your spine should be naturally aligned.
* Get a new pillow. A pillow too thick or two thin will give you pain and bad sleep.

from Weight Watchers.

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