Everything You Need to Know About Sleep

Health Tips, WellnessApril 21, 2017

The answers below tell you everything you need to know about sleep!

What does sleep do for our bodies?
Sleep is vital for our minds and bodies. It helps our nervous systems work properly and supports cell maintenance and repair. It also helps us maintain optimal emotional function. And, in young adults and children, sleep coincides with the release of growth hormones – which is very important for development.

What are the stages of sleep?
There are five stages of sleep, starting with stage one and ending with REM. Stage one is a light sleep, while stages three-four are deep sleep. Each stage progresses in a cycle, then starts over. A complete cycle takes 90-110 minutes on average. We spend 50% of our sleeping time in stage two, 20% in REM, and 30% in the other stages. REM occurs about 70-90 minutes after we fall asleep. As the period of sleep progress, REM time lasts longer.

How many ZZZs do we need?
Well that depends! Here are the general amounts, which vary by age.
Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
Young adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours

What happens if we don’t get enough sleep?
Sleep deprivation can be dangerous. Though we’re often told the contrary, caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation. Lack of good sleep can affect our moods and our health, and it also impairs our hand-eye coordination. This is especially concerning when it comes to driving, as driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 accidents.

What are sleep disorders?
There are more than 80 types of sleep disorders, and 50-70 million U.S. adults suffer from them. The varying disorders result in sleep deprivation that interferes with work, driving and social activities. Sleep disorders account for an estimated $16 billion in medical cost. Below, you’ll find information about different sleep disorders and treatment.

Sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder. Sleep apnea is an involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs while a person is asleep. With each apnea event, the brain rouses the sleeper, usually only partially, to signal breathing to resume. As a result, a person’s sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

There are three types of sleep apnea:
1. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear throat collapses and closes during sleep.
2. Central sleep apnea occurs when the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe.
3. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two.

Who is at risk of sleep apnea?
People who are obese have four times the risk
Anyone with a naturally narrow throat or thick neck
Older adults
Those with a family history of sleep apnea
Anyone using alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers
Those who have difficulty breathing through the nose — whether from anatomy or allergies

Treating sleep apnea usually involves a CPAP or PAP machine, which aids and regulates breathing. Dental appliances sometimes help, as well.

Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep. Symptoms include sleepiness during the day, general tiredness, irritability, and problems with concentration or memory. Causes of insomnia can include significant life stress, illness, emotional or physical discomfort, environmental factors, medication, jet lag, and so on.

Insomnia can be treated with medication, practice, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the control of sleep. People with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of sleep during the day. These sudden sleep attacks may occur during any type of activity, at any time of the day. Narcolepsy usually begins between the ages of 15 and 25, but it can become apparent at any age.

Symptoms of narcolepsy:
Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS): In general, EDS interferes with normal activities on a daily basis. People with EDS report mental cloudiness, a lack of energy and concentration, memory lapses, a depressed mood, and extreme exhaustion.
Cataplexy: This is a sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to weakness and a loss of voluntary muscle control.
Hallucinations: Usually, these delusional experiences are vivid and frightening.
Sleep paralysis: This involves the temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up. These episodes are generally brief.

Narcolepsy can usually be controlled with drug treatment.

Restless leg syndrome is an unpleasant feeling or sensation in the legs when going to sleep. It usually comes with a strong urge to move. The movement makes it hard or impossible to get enough sleep. The first line of defense against restless leg syndrome is to avoid substances or foods that cause or worsen the problem. This might mean staying away from alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine. People who experience restless leg syndrome at least three nights a week might also be put on medication.

How do I know if I have a sleep disorder?
At the Grand Lake Sleep Center, we conduct extensive physical exams and review a patient’s thorough medical history to properly diagnose sleep disorders. If you believe you have any of the symptoms or concerns listed above, please contact us.

The best way to avoid disorders and to maintain your overall health and wellness is to establish good sleeping habits:
Go to bed at a set time and get up at a set time.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
Relax before bed with a warm shower, meditation, or whatever calms you down.
Turn off all electronics and the television when you’re trying to fall asleep.
Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
If you can’t fall asleep, get up and read or listen to music until you feel sleepy. Then try again.

Sleep is just one aspect of complete health and wellness. To learn more about our Occupational Health and Wellness services, give us a call!