August 23, 2019

Healthy Lifestyles: Sleep

In this edition of healthy lifestyles we talk about sleep!

Healthy Lifestyles: Sleep

Continuing with the Healthy Lifestyles series we will discuss the health implications of rest.  An often neglected aspect of a healthy life, rest is essential to ensuring a high quality of life and that a the body has enough energy to complete tasks.  In this post we will discuss the effects of sleep deprivation, factors influencing rest quality, and when it is important to rest.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can take varying forms of intensity and occurs when one does not sleep for a sufficient amount of time.  For teenagers and adults, the rule of thumb is around eight hours a day of rest.  Teenagers are meant to get more sleep due intensity of teen growth.  Adults can get less sleep, ranging from around 7-9 hours.  

Failing to properly rest in these time frames will produce symptoms proportional to the amount of sleep lost.  There are a range of symptoms which accompany sleep deprivation.  Changes in mood can occur such as increased irritability, anxiety, lack of motivation, and depression.  Performance related symptoms include decreased attention, lack of focus, decreased cognitive abilities (risk assessment and critical thinking), physiological fatigue, and more.  Failing to acquire proper rest can produce these symptoms with varying degrees of intensity, depending on the individual.

Sleep deprivation also contributes to chronic health issues such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.  Anecdotally my heart rate tends to be higher when deprived of sleep, but this is not a proven symptom of sleep deprivation.

Obesity is linked to sleep deprivation due to hormonal changes and decreased ability to think logically.  Lack of sleep can trick the body into thinking it requires more energy.  This leads to higher caloric intake, and contributes to obesity.  Since the brain is not functioning properly when deprived, people often turn to foods high in fat and sugar.  Sleep deprivation can also contribute to Diabetes.  Type 1 and type 2 are both affected by this, as sleep deprivation causes the body to be more insulin resistant.

Factors Influencing Rest

Getting a good night of rest can be influenced by a variety of factors within someones life.  These factors can be related to the layout of a bedroom, consistency in sleep schedule, diet and exercise, and mental factors.

The layout of the room is more important in obtaining adequate rest than most people realize.  One such factor bed quality.  Using a low quality bed can cause a worse night of sleep.  Quality, in this sense, can mean how comfortable the bed is or the size of the bed.  A related factor to the quality of the bed is the temperature of the room.  Maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the night is important to ensuring a good night of rest.  Having a room which is too hot or too cold can cause disruptions in sleep.

Another layout related factor is maintaining a low light and low sound environment when sleeping.  The main offender of these conditions are phones, tablets, and computers which light up and disrupt sleep.  Ideally, devices should be hidden in a way that no light disrupts your sleep cycle, and sounds do not play in the night.  This also includes not using the bedroom for activities unrelated to sleep.  By doing activities such as playing video games in the bedroom, the brain associates the bedroom with multiple things.  Reserving the space for sleeping causes the brain to associate the bedroom with sleep, making it easier to fall asleep.

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is important to ensuring quality rest.  Going to bed at the same time every night trains the body to wind down and fall asleep at a certain time.  This is one of the reasons why jet lag has a significant impact on sleep, the body is not used to going to bed at a certain time.  Consistent sleep schedules include allowing an adequate amount of time before bed which does not include looking at screens.  Blue light emitted from screens has been shown to decrease the production of melatonin.  Since melatonin is a hormone which promotes sleep, this means blue light is linked to prevention of sleep.  Personally, I like to limit blue light exposure at least an hour before resting.

Diet and exercise are other factors which can affect the quality of sleep.  Many different foods can contribute to a lack of quality rest.  Soda and Coffee are commonly consumed throughout the day.  However, consuming caffeine products in the afternoon can have detrimental effects on sleep patterns.  Even after the noticeable affects of caffeine wear off the chemical could still be affecting the body.  This can lead to decreased quality of sleep, midnight wake ups, or failure to fall asleep.  Also contained in sodas which have caffeine is sugar.  Diets high in saturated fats and sugar can cause sleep quality to decrease.

The effect of exercise on sleep is intuitive.  With more exercise the body is more exhausted by the end of the day.  This means falling asleep is easier and the chance of waking up during the night is decreased.  High intensity exercise is a great way to ensure a good night of sleep.

The final major category of things which can affect one's sleep are mental issues.  These conditions should be diagnosed by a doctor and various treatment paths are required.  If you have tried fixing the issues talked about previously, and your sleep is still inadequate it may be time to see a doctor.  Sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and more.  If you feel as if the quality of your sleep is suffering for no apparent reason, seek a doctor for help.

When to Rest

As mentioned in the previous section, it is important to have a consistent sleep schedule to ensure quality rest is obtained.  This means going to bed at the same time every night and limiting sleep during the day.  One of the most detrimental habits which can prevent adequate rest is napping for large periods of time during the day.  Ideally, most of a person's sleep should occur at the end of the day for 7-9 hours.  There are some ideas which advocate for splitting of sleep into two sections, but this should only be done if required by a schedule.  Otherwise, sleep should be conducted at the end of the day, and sleep during the day should be limited to under an hour at a time.

Conclusion

After reading this article it is apparent that many factors influence a person's ability to obtain quality rest.  The first of these factors, the environment, plays a significant role in promoting or preventing sleep.  Sleep environments should be quiet and dark, used primarily for sleep, and contain a quality bed.  Consistently sleeping at the same time every night will train the body to fall asleep.  Diet and exercise are vital to ensuring one can fall asleep and not wake up during the night.  Finally, sleep disorders exist which can prevent one from obtaining quality of rest.