Good sleep is essential to good healthBy Veita Bland, M.D. / May 13, 2022
One of the problems that patients seem to have has to do with getting what they deem as “adequate sleep.” Sleep is one of those subjects with which many people have questions and problems. Many people feel they are not getting adequate sleep. Others feel that they are sleeping too much. Still others feel they have too much to do in life to sleep.
Let’s unpack some of this. First, the reason we all want to get a good night’s sleep is because we feel better when we do so. Who does not want that refreshed feeling one gets after a good night’s sleep? Why do we feel that way?
Sleep is when the body repairs itself. Sleep is when the brain clears out trash and is a particularly important part of the health cycle. When one does not get enough sleep, he or she may feel ill, fatigued, not awake enough and/or irritable. You know it when you feel it. It signals you that sufficient rest did not occur and now you are asking a fatigued brain to start the process of a new day and all that it requires. You are not at your best, but you make do and go on.
One question to ask is does repeat nights of poor sleep affect you? On many levels it does. New studies have shown that most people need seven hours of sleep. These studies also show that there are problems with cognition and mental health when insufficient sleep or excessive sleep is a problem.
So, the decisions that you make on your job, for your family, while driving and in life may not be your best effort because you are not functioning with a full tank of sleep.
Your mental health is affected, so maybe you are more sensitive to things, more prone to anxiety or to depression because your tank of sleep is half empty. These scenarios can definitely affect the quality of your life and those around you.
I see many parents of children, students and those with busy schedules make plans to achieve seven hours of sleep. Though it’s not easy, you must prioritize sleep in your life. It needs to be one of those issues that is non-negotiable.
If you find that you are getting those seven hours of sleep and still not feeling awake and alert, speak to your healthcare provider. You may need to investigate the quality of the sleep that you get. Sleep studies are an invaluable way of looking at your sleep and seeing what is physiologically going on while you are sleeping. The initial test can be done in your home and can answer many questions. More advanced parameters of sleep may require an in-suite sleep study where you are formally monitored.
We also want to remind people, who sleep excessively (more than the 7 hours) that they also need to make sure they discuss this with their healthcare provider. These health situations to be investigated and a sleep study may be in order.
Sleep hygiene is very important. Remember to sleep on a good mattress and in a cool dark room.
So many people will say that they have problems falling asleep and staying asleep. Look again at your sleep hygiene. Avoid caffeinated drinks after noon, no workouts within two hours of sleep, avoid volatile conversations before sleep. Remember, a nightcap really does not help you sleep.
Sleeping aids can be a slippery slope. There are medications for this and some medications can be detrimental in the long run. Discuss this with your healthcare provider.
Sleep is a necessity of life. Seek it, respect it and honor it.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.