Sleep is Medicine Friday, Jul 23 2021 

Perhaps Americans should start putting sleep on their calendars and to-do lists. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three Americans are sleep-deprived. More than 35% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Shockingly, one in 20 has fallen asleep while driving in the past month!

Sleep needs vary from one person to another. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. However, some are fine at 6 hours while others require up to 10.

One of the interesting factors regarding sleep is that deprivation can result in illness and illness can contribute to sleep deprivation. For example, due to at least two illnesses, I’m one of those people who experiences a cycle of pain and fatigue. The more tired I am, the more pain I feel and visa versa. I’m at a point where I can do anything as long as I allow rest times after physical activity.

Dozens of factors contribute to sleep deprivation including a too-busy schedule, too much caffeine or alcohol consumption, anemia, hypothyroidism, jet lag, unhealthy diet, anxiety, cancer, chronic infection, inflammation, and pain, kidney disease, concussion, COPD, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, physical or emotional trauma, hormone imbalance, grief, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and sleep apnea.

On the other hand, lack of sleep may result in other health problems. Researchers find that lack of sleep makes it more difficult to lose weight and poses an increased risk of diabetes, heart problems, depression, substance abuse and a decreased ability to focus, remember new information, and perform at optimum levels.

There’s also a connection between sleep loss and memory loss. Chronic sleep deprivation causes injury to parts of the brain that are essential in maintaining attention and forming and storing memories. In addition, it’s believed that our brains clean out substances while sleeping that otherwise interfere with its ability to transmit messages.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME and ME/CFS), is a particular problem with fatigue that is predominately diagnosed by ruling out other illnesses. Symptoms include fatigue that worsens with physical or mental activity, doesn’t improve with rest, and may also include difficulty with memory, focus, concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, unexplained muscle or joint pain, and headaches.

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors.

If you feel that fatigue is a daily concern for you, it may be best to consult your physician.

*Have you seen my post, “Eat Well. Live Well?

*For information on caregiving to loved ones with dementia, you may find these books helpful: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

*Photo: Lily Pad, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL, 6/12/21

Sleep and Alzheimer’s Prevention Wednesday, Dec 2 2015 

Sleep well. That’s something I often say to my children and grandchildren when speaking with them in the evening. Studies show how important sleep is for us in so many ways. Now new studies are linking the need for sleep and the reduction of Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists have documented numerous connections between sleep loss and memory loss. Chronic sleep deprivation causes injury to parts of the brain that are essential in maintaining attention and forming and storing memories.

Currently, there is an interest in how this relates to Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s tend to waken often through the night. At this point it is uncertain whether the poor sleep contributes toward a cause of the disease or is only a symptom. Dr Erik Musiek, assistant professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis says that new research suggests that sleep and circadian rhythm problems early in life may contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s and accelerate the disease.

Studies show sleep-deprived mice accumulate greater amounts of beta-amyloid plaque, a substance believed to damage and destroy brain cells in those with Alzheimer’s. And one finding showed the spinal fluid of mice swirled around the brains while sleeping, cleaning out the protein substance. If this is true for humans, it would greatly reinforce the need for sleep. It would offer a solution in the reduction of the disease.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

(For an excellent article on this topic, see the November 25, 2015 Chicago Tribune article, “Linking sleep and Alzheimer’s” by Mark Taylor.)

Get Some Sleep Thursday, Feb 7 2013 

Lisa and Mark's Property.Bonfire.3.August, 2011My mother passed away nearly 14 years ago but I can still hear her telling me to get some sleep. Sleep is such a simple, basic need and yet one that we have little time for. Television, computers, video games, and smart phones leave us overstimulated at the end of the day and unable to attain a peaceful rest.

The National Sleep Foundation states that research shows lack of sleep can lead to serious health consequences. Some of these include:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • A greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react, or remember new information
  • Compromised mood, performance ,and alertness resulting in injury or death.

Personal sleep needs vary based on several factors, two of which are basal need and sleep debt. Basal sleep need is the amount of sleep our bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance, which varies slightly from person to person. Sleep debt is the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits and sickness.

The average basal need for healthy adults is believed to be seven to eight hours every night. Should a sleep debt come into play, more sleep is required for a period of time.

Surprisingly, nine hours or more of sleep may also be harmful to your health.

So listen to Mom and get some sleep – but not too much. If you’re one of those who toss and turn the night away, try turning off the electronics earlier. Instead, read a good book, relax by a fire,  or dim the lights and listen to soft music the hour before bedtime.

©Mary K. Doyle

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