March 18, 2020 7 min read
Poor sleep leads to excessive production of the ‘stress’ hormone called cortisol. This makes you put on more weight and increases the risk of obesity. In addition, hormones, which regulate appetite, are also elaborated with poor sleep, and this makes you consume more calories.
Good sleep reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and stroke are common conditions that could occur with a lack of sleep. Poor sleep reduces insulin sensitivity and alters blood sugar levels.
Sleep improves your immunity. If you develop colds often, the chances are that you might not be getting enough sleep. In this period of the coronavirus pandemic, experts have recommended adequate sleep to prevent COVID-19 Immune System Health problems.
Sleep helps the brain to function properly, and it improves learning:
Good sleep is a performance booster, and it improves cognition, concentration, and memory. Hence, you would be more productive during the day if you slept well at night.
Depressed individuals usually have a poor sleep, characteristically seen as early-morning wakefulness. Conversely, poor sleep health could lead to depression and suicidal ideations.
Sleep deprivation affects your emotional and social health:
This might make you more irritable, erratic, and reduce your understanding of social cues.
Quick Ways to Determine Whether You Are Getting Enough Sleep
If you have one or more of these symptoms, it may suggest that you have poor sleep health or even a sleep disorder:
Difficulty initiating or sustaining sleep
Fatigue during the day
Lack of concentration
Physiology of sleep
An understanding of the physiology behind sleep makes it easier to understand some of the common disorders. During sleep, body functions are reduced to a basal level, and important changes take place. For instance, there is increased production of certain hormones like growth hormone. Blood pressure and heart rate reduce, respiratory efficiency reduces, urine formation reduces, all muscles lose their tone except ocular muscles, and certain reflexes are abolished.
There are two main types of sleep:
The REM stage is where sleep is deepest, and this is where dreams occur. Muscles often twitch, and metabolism might fluctuate. Rapid eye movement sleep (REM)
Non-rapid eye movement sleep (NON-REM)
The Non-Rem sleep is divided into 4 stages; Drowsiness, light sleep, medium sleep, and deep sleep. Metabolism is stable here, and there are no eye movements, dreams, or muscle twitches.
Some common sleep disorders
We can broadly classify sleep disorders into two main categories:-
Dyssomnias: These are disturbances of normal sleep and the rhythm.
Parasomnias: These are characterized by abnormal behaviour during sleep.
Insomnia: This is difficulty initiating sleep or maintaining it. Thus, there is increased sleep latency or difficulty staying asleep. In about 15% of cases, there is usually no cause, and it is then referred to as primary insomnia. Other causes may be due to illness, excessive alcohol, dementia, anxiety disorders, or metabolic syndromes. The first line of management is through the non-pharmacological option of sleep hygiene.
Hypersomnia: This is excessive sleep or the need to sleep. A small percentage of adults usually experience this from time to time.
Narcolepsy: There is a reduced ability to control sleep-wake patterns. Thus, there is uncontrollable sleep. It is due to certain hypothalamic disorders, and it may be associated with cataplexy, a transient attack of weakness caused by sudden outbursts of emotions like fear, anger, or surprise.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):
This is a common type of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes vary and are classically seen as recurrent episodes upper airway obstruction during sleep. The apnea may also be due to decreased stimulation of the respiratory centers or the arrest of diaphragmatic movements. There is an associated reduction in blood oxygen saturation. The most common feature is loud snoring, morning headaches, and fatigue. Other sleep apnea causes are central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea syndrome.
This sleep disorder is also known as sleepwalking. It occurs during deep non-REM sleep, usually in the early part of the night. It is common in children. However, this disorder may persist into adulthood. They usually do not respond to questions and could be very difficult to awaken. Most episodes last for a few seconds or minutes. Doors and windows should be locked and dangerous objects removed to prevent any harm. Adults with severe problems should be advised against sleep deprivation and drinking alcohol before going to bed.
This is a sleep disorder with an inability to perform voluntary movements during the transitions between sleep and wakefulness, either at sleep onset or during awakening. The episodes are often accompanied by extreme fear.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
This is a distressing and painful condition where there is an irrepressible urge to move the legs. Symptoms are worse at night and are temporarily relieved by walking about. It is thought to be a side effect of some medications. It is commonly seen in women.
Normally, muscles lose their tone during REM sleep. However, when this fails to occur, there is a movement of these muscles. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder is considered when behavioral problems like aggression and agitation occur at night. The individual usually makes sounds and violent limb movements. It is often seen in elderly men.
To get a better quality of sleep, you need to practice what is known as Sleep Hygiene. This involves behavioral and environmental lifestyle modifications. Here are some tips:
Try to get adequate sleep:
Children need nine to 11 hours of sleep a day, and adults need about 7 to 9 hours. Elderly people should get about seven sleep every night. This guarantees optimum mental and physical productivity throughout the day.
Avoid caffeine after lunch:
Caffeine is a stimulant and has a half-life of 6 hours. Thus, it remains in your body system for almost the whole day. If you must take it, do so only in the morning.
Avoid screens for an hour before bedtime:
Screens on your cell phone, computer, tablet, and television, emit blue light, and this suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin controls your circadian rhythm, and its suppression makes it harder to fall or stay asleep.
Avoid large meals before bedtime:
Large meals close to bedtime could interfere with your sleep because they might make you bloat, cause heartburn, or other indigestion related issues.
Cut down on alcohol and smoking:
Cigarettes contain nicotine, a stimulant, and this might keep you awake. A little glass of alcohol might allow you to fall asleep faster, but excessive alcohol interferes with your sleep rhythm.
Regular exercise improves your sleep quality. However, you should avoid exercising close to bedtime as the increase of core body temperature, and several hormones could interfere with your sleep.
Avoid sleeping too much in the day:
Naps are very refreshing. However, they can make your insomnia worse if they are too long. Limit your naps to less than 20 to 30 minutes a day.
Have a bedtime routine, and go to bed only when tired:
The reticular activating system controls your body’s circadian rhythm in your brain. Find out the time that you usually get tired and go to bed at that time. As much as possible, avoid overnight activities.
Make your bed comfortable:
If your bed is too hard or too soft, it might cause body aches, which would stop you from sleeping properly. Discover the mattress firmness that suits you the most. Your pillows should be one or two inches high for proper cervical spine alignment.
Appropriate room temperature:
Your bedroom should be cool, and this would help you to fall asleep faster. In addition, it should be dark. Use thick or dark curtains and switch off the lights when bedtime approaches.
There should be no noise:
Traffic and noisy neighbors may prove to be a source of nuisance. Earplugs and cool music may help you to achieve more tranquility. Your bedroom should be as quiet as possible.
If you are eager to see your performance and progress, you can use mobile apps or other devices to track your sleep.
Covid-19 Immune System Health
Ways to prevent against Coronavirus
Currently, there are no vaccines to protect against the virus. Therefore, the best way is to prevent yourself from getting exposed to it. Children and the elderly are more susceptible to the disease because of their relatively weakened immune system. Also, people with underlying medical conditions may have their immunity suppressed.
The virus spreads by close and direct contact with the infected person and also through respiratory droplets. However, one might not know who is infected, so the universal precautions to take include:
Clean your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water. If not available, use sanitizers. Do this particularly if you have been in public places.
Avoid touching your face, especially with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with anyone who has the flu. If the virus is actively spreading in your community, try self-isolating yourself from others.
If you are sick, stay at home, except you want to access medical care.
Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue.
Wear a facemask, particularly if you are suspicious about those around you.
Clean frequently touched surfaces in your home regularly.
Emphasize the importance of COVID-19 Immune System Health awareness to those around you.
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