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Sleep is not just resting or taking a break from busy routines. It is essential to physical and emotional health. Adequate sleep may also play a role in helping the body recover from illness and injury. Inadequate sleep over a period of time is associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

But, the emotional and mental benefits of sleep are also significant. Even occasional sleep problems can make daily life feel more stressful and less productive. And, some people with chronic insomnia are more likely to develop psychiatric problems.

Loss of sleep is also believed to contribute to strained relationships at home and unfulfilled potential on the job, and can be dangerous, leading to serious or even fatal accidents. Consider these facts from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Sleep problems increase with aging.
  • Health care expenses and lost productivity from sleep deprivation cost approximately 100 billion dollars a year.
  • Drowsy drivers take the blame for at least 100,000 police-reported crashes in the U.S. annually.
  • At least 40 million Americans report having sleep difficulties. Sixty percent of adults in the U.S. have never been asked about their sleep quality by a doctor, and 20 percent have never asked their doctors for sleep information.

Because sleep loss encourages over eating and unhealthy eating, the UPHW considers developing good sleep habits to be a key factor in reaching a healthy weight.

Find out how much sleep you should be getting each night and what changes you might need to make to ensure your body and your brain get the rest they need.

Sleep, for a Healthy Weight

Sleep is essential for living. Your body and your brain need sleep to function properly. Without enough shut-eye, you’re more likely to experience moodiness, confusion, slowed reaction time, and a lack of concentration. A growing amount of research also shows that too little sleep too often is linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, and even heart attacks.

Recent studies http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/107/12/1671.long have found that people who suffer from frequent insomnia have a higher risk of experiencing a heart attack. Women may be especially prone to heart attacks because of sleepless nights due to hormonal changes during menopause. During deep sleep your heart rate may rise and fall and your blood pressure may vary. Experts speculate that these fluctuations promote heart health.

Most adults function best after seven to nine hours of sleep. But each person’s sleep needs are different. You may have a sleep disorder if you experience any of the following on three or more nights a week:

• You aren’t able to fall asleep within 30 minutes after going to bed.

• You frequently wake up at night and have problems falling back asleep.

• You feel sleepy during the day and may nod off unexpectedly.

• You don’t feel well-rested after sleeping seven or more hours.

An occasional restless night likely isn’t a cause for concern. But if you suffer from chronic sleep problems, you may have a sleep disorder. One of the most common sleep disorders is insomnia the inability to fall or stay asleep at least three nights a week for more than a month.

If you think you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your health care provider right away. Left untreated, sleep disorders can cause serious health problems.

Insomnia

Almost everyone will suffer from sleeplessness at one time or another. But, if you experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or enjoying a restful night’s sleep on a regular basis, you may be suffering from insomnia.

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

You might be have insomnia if you frequently suffer from:

    • Daytime sleepiness
    • Low energy or fatigue
    • Anxiety or frustration about sleep
    • Attention, concentration or memory problems
    • Waking up tired or in pain

What causes insomnia?

Insomnia may be caused by many factors, including the following:

    • Stress
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Physical illness
    • Caffeine
    • Irregular schedules
    • Circadian rhythm disorders
    • Drugs (including alcohol and nicotine)
    • Occasional or chronic pain

How can sleep problems be solved?

There are many things you can do at home to try and cure your insomnia. But if these changes do not solve the problem in a few weeks, you should talk to your health care provider. You may have a medical condition that needs treatment.

In the meantime, try these suggestions. (Remember, it takes 4-6 weeks to develop a new habit.)

    • Get up about the same time every day – even on weekends.
    • Go to bed only when you are sleepy and get out of bed when you are awake.
    • Establish a nightly routine, such as a warm bath, brushing teeth, putting on bedtime clothing, or 10-20 minutes of reading.
    • Don’t drink alcohol within several hours of bedtime or when you are sleepy.
    • Avoid anything containing caffeine – including chocolate – within six hours of bedtime.
    • Exercise regularly, but avoid exercising 2 to 4 hours before bedtime.
    • Don’t smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant.
    • Turn off the television an hour or so before bedtime. The lights from television and computer screens are known to stimulate the brain.
    • If you take naps, limit them to about 20 minutes and take them around the same time every day.
    • Don’t use sleeping pills or only use them on occasion. Never drink alcohol while taking sleeping pills.
    • Make your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. If possible, remove nonsleep related items, such as televisions or computers, so that the room is associated only with sleep.
    • Some people find soft white noise, like the sound of a small fan, helps relax the body and brain.

If you are still having trouble sleeping or don’t feel rested when you wake up, talk with your doctor. The right treatment can help you get the rest you need.