Tag Archives: sleep-right

Six Reasons To Not Scrimp On Sleep

Sleep deprived.jpgchoiceA recent survey found that more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power, reports the Harvard Women’s Health Watch.While more research is needed to explore the links between chronic sleep loss and health, it’s safe to say that sleep is too important to shortchange.

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:

1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.

5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.

6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

fro more information on this and other articles see : http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health

Sharpen thinking skills with a better night’s sleep

Getting seven to eight hours a night can help you restore clarity
and improve memory.

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Are you tired of struggling with fuzzy thinking and a faltering memory? Tired may be the key word. “Poor sleep has an adverse impact on thinking,” says sleep expert Dr. Lawrence Epstein, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. “This is true whether it’s due to a lack of sleep or a sleep disorder.”

 

The problem

When people don’t get enough sleep, their attention and concentration abilities decline. Their reaction time lengthens, they’re inattentive, and they don’t respond as well to environmental signals. That means they can’t take in new information or react to dangerous situations. This is particularly worrisome if you’re behind the wheel of a car. “For example, going without sleep for 48 hours impairs cognitive abilities to the same degree as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1%, above the legal limit for driving in every state,” says Dr. Epstein, who’s also the editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Improving Sleep: A Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Rest (available at www.health.harvard.edu).

A lack of sleep can also contribute to a long list of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even early death.

Causes

There are many reasons why people don’t get enough sleep, chief among them not setting aside enough time. Other common causes include insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep); side effects from medication; sleep apnea (a type of breathing disorder during sleep); restless leg syndrome; and chronic conditions such as heartburn, heart disease, thyroid disease, depression, and narcolepsy (a disorder of sleep/wake regulation). Late-night exposure to the light from television and computer screens, as well as smart phones, can also keep us awake, stimulating our brains and making it harder to fall asleep.

Age is another culprit that affects your sleep. You’ll find that the older you get, the longer it takes to fall asleep. Sleep quality also becomes poorer, resulting in dozens of awakenings during the night.

What you can do

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get more sleep. “You really can make up for lost sleep and restore focus and clarity. You can lose the brain fog within a week. But start now; the longer you have bad sleep, the longer it will take to catch up,” says Dr. Epstein. He suggests that you aim for seven to eight hours a night. (The idea that older adults can function well on fewer hours is a myth.) Try the following strategies to get started.

  • Check for underlying causes. Some conditions or medications may be interfering with your sleep patterns. Treating a condition or adjusting a medication may be all it takes to restore better sleep.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Use your bed for sleep and sex only, block as much noise and light as possible, go to bed and wake at the same times each day, and get out of bed if you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes.
  • Exercise earlier, not later. Exercise stimulates the brain, so make sure you finish at least three hours before turning in.
  • Watch your diet. Avoid foods that promote heartburn, and don’t eat late at night; lying down after eating promotes sleep-disturbing heartburn. Ban caffeine-packed food and drinks (chocolate, tea, coffee, soda) at least six hours before bedtime. Avoid alcohol for at least two hours before bed. It may make you feel sleepy at first, but several hours later it acts like a stimulant—and interrupts sleep. And don’t drink too much water before bedtime, to cut down on trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  • See a sleep specialist. If your own efforts aren’t working, you’ll want the help of a sleep professional to both diagnose your problem and propose behavioral therapy and possibly drug treatments.

For more information on this topic and more see: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2014/March/sharpen-thinking-skills-with-a-better-nights-sleep?utm_source=health&utm_medium=pressrelease&utm_campaign=health0314

Study: Sleep Loss Can Cause Brain Damage

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Inconsistent sleep patterns may be hurting your brain, and making up for lost sleep on the weekends doesn’t help, according to new research. “This is the first report that sleep loss can actually result in a loss of neurons,” neuroscientist Sigrid Veasey says Missing sleep may lead to brain damage, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience                                                                                       on Tuesday.

Many assume that naps and sleeping in on weekends can help you catch up on your “sleep debt,” but that strategy won’t fix the damage you’ve already done to your brain, says neuroscientist Sigrid Veasey from the University of Pennsylvania.

Veasey and her colleagues studied mice who were submitted to a sleep schedule similar to that of shift workers. They slept for short periods during inconsistent hours. The researchers found that sleeping for only brief periods of time caused massive brain damage: the mice lost 25 percent of the neurons in their locus coeruleus, the section of their brain associated with alertness and cognitive function.

The scientists believe that when the mice slept inconsistently, their newer cells would create more sirtuin type 3, a protein meant to energize and protect the mice. But after several days of missing sleep, as a shift worker might, the protein creation fell off and cells began to die off at a faster pace.

“This is the first report that sleep loss can actually result in a loss of neurons,” Veasey said in a statement on the University of Pennsylvania website. The team plans to study the brains of deceased shift workers next to see if they show similar brain damage.

For more information on this topic see: http://time.com/30238/study-sleep-loss-can-cause-brain-damage/