The Importance of Sleep

Dr. Daniel Lewis and Leslie Alvarado of HCR give a presentation at SAGE. Photo: Susan Jordan

By Dr. Daniel Lewis, P.T., D.P.T, HCR Home Care, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Sleep and how much rest we get is a popular and important topic of conversation. How many times have you said or heard someone mention how they didn’t get enough sleep last night for one reason or another? While sleep is something that is on people’s minds, the importance of proper sleep and the effects it has on our health is often underestimated.

There two types of sleep. The sleep during which you experience dreaming is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Deep sleep is the other type, in which your mind rests and brain activity slows. Both types cycle during sleep and contribute to your overall health and well-being.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of US adults, ages 18-60 years old, report getting less than the recommended 7 or more hours of sleep each day. This can lead to sleep deprivation or deficiency and can affect alertness, energy levels, mood, and coordination. Sleep deprivation has contributed to motor vehicle and mass transit accidents, such as the Metro North derailment of a commuter train in December of 2013. In older adults, inadequate sleep can also lead to an increased risk of falling and mortality. Furthermore, there is increased risk of mental, emotional, and physical health problems, including obesity, depression, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic conditions, associated with lack of proper sleep.

Improving the quantity and quality of sleep is key to reducing health risks and improving your overall well-being. Some simple ways to improve sleep include:

  • Try going to bed and waking up around the same time every day
  • Increase your level of physical activity, at least 20 minutes daily, according to the CDC
  • Relax about an hour before bed time
  • Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, in the afternoon and evening and avoid eating a couple of hours before bed
  • Keep your sleeping area as a quiet and dark zone

If you are experiencing difficulty with sleeping and feel that these strategies aren’t helping, see your physician to discuss what can be done. They may be able to offer suggestions ranging from changing a medication which is affecting your sleep, prescribing something to help improve your quality of sleep, or referring you for a sleep study among other alternatives.

For more information, please visit Sweet Dreams!




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