So, you stayed up late to watch Letterman, then got up earlyto pack the kids' lunches. Slept four hours, tops. You probably did ityesterday, and you'll do it again tomorrow.
You're building up a sleep deficit that not even a couple ofextra hours in bed this weekend can make up.
"A lot of people who are chronically deprived don't realizewhat's happening," said Robert Pope, head of the St. Mary's MedicalCenter Sleep Disorder Center in Evansville, Ind. "Your brain justdoesn't function as well."
Millions of Americans have habits or make choices that preventthem from getting the sleep their bodies need, but there are more than30 million who suffer from chronic sleep disorders, according to theSouthwestern Indiana Sleep Disorders Lab.
Many people need eight straight hours of sleep, preferably atnight, but the amount needed varies by person. Teenagers andcollege-age students need nine hours and are wired to stay up late, butschool forces them to get up earlier than their bodies want to.
Doctors don't know why people need to sleep, but know thatthey do.
People should worry about getting a good night's sleep thesame as they worry about exercise and diet, Pope said.
Lack of sleep causes numerous problems, includingirritability, mood swings, behavioral problems, short-term memory loss,an inability to commit new information to memory, high blood pressure,a foggy mind and a weakened immune system. It's even been linked todiabetes and metabolic dysfunction.
While some people sacrifice sleep for other activities, otherswork night or swing shifts that revolt against the body's naturalrhythms.Sleep deficit can be caused by apnea or other medicaldisorders.After a night in bed, Robert Thiem would wake up and not feelrefreshed. He would have trouble falling asleep, then wake up quicklybefore getting the rest he needed.His doctor sent him to the St. Mary's center, where he wasdiagnosed with sleep apnea and given a mask that gives him the oxygenhe needs to get in 40 winks."I get all the rest, all I need," said Thiem, 75, ofWadesville, Ind. "I'm not tired. It's just like a new world."Some people simply have bad habits that cut into the qualityof sleep. Ingesting caffeine or exercising before bed keeps the bodyup. Increased evening sunlight in summer and longer morning darkness inwinter disorient the body. "The flashing lights and increased volume ofcommercials make leaving the TV on at night disruptive," said AndreaHelmer, a sleep and respiratory therapist at the Deaconess HospitalSleep Lab in Evansville, Ind."A proper diagnosis could solve other problems," said ArthurBentsen, a doctor at the Deaconess lab. Primary-care physicians canspot depression, apnea or restless legs, an affliction that preventscomfort conducive to sleep.
The physicians can recommend treatment or refer patients toone of the area's five sleep labs."People have to be sure they don't let packed schedules get inthe way of the sleep they need," Pope said.Naps help. Even 15 minutes at lunch can be refreshing. Butavoid naps that are longer than one hour."You have to adjust your schedule so you permit yourself tosleep," Pope said.Sleep Tips From the National Sleep Foundation1. Maintain a regular bed and wake-time schedule, including weekends.2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine, such assoaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listeningto soothing music.3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet,comfortable and cool.4. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.5. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex. It is best to takework materials, computers and televisions out of the sleepingenvironment.6. Finish eating at least two to three hours before yourregular bedtime.7. Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout atleast a few hours before bedtime.8. Avoid nicotine (like cigarettes and tobacco products). Usedclose to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep.9. Avoid caffeine (including coffee, tea, soft drinks,chocolate) close to bedtime. It can keep you awake.10. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. It can lead to disruptedsleep later in the night.Source: Evansville Courier& Press. Powered by Yellowbrix.