Healthy sleep needed for good health
By Charles Kim
How much sleep do you really need? Sleep is universal, something that is shared by every animal on the planet. During the last several decades, scientists have conducted many studies about sleep to understand how it benefits overall health. Health experts consistently tout getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night as the route to a healthy lifestyle.
What exactly is healthy sleep?
It's not just a question of how long we sleep, however, “duration, timing, and quality (of sleep), if any one of those is missing, you see a higher chance for disease,” says National Center on Sleep Disorders Research Director Dr. Michael Twery
Dr. Twery likened the components of good sleep to old fashioned timing belts in cars that orchestrated their mechanical function before computers. While a deviation in the belt would still let the car function, it would not operate efficiently, costing more in fuel and wearing down the motor faster. These components must all work together to produce a beneficial night of sleep, he said.
Good sleep helps our waking performance, mood, and overall health. Good sleep also promotes the production of hormones needed in children and adults to build muscle mass, fight infections and repair cells, according to the institute. According to Dr. Twery good sleep depends on basic factors, like stress, atmosphere, and comfort.
How much sleep is too much?
Just as there is a recommended amount of sleep needed by the average person, a recent study published in the European Heart Journal in December of last year, found that people sleeping more than eight hours a night showed an increased risk for cardiovascular incidents and death proportionate to the longer they slept. According to the study, which followed 116,632 subjects in seven regions during almost an eight-year period, sleeping between 9-10 hours a day, including afternoon naps, showed as much as a 41 percent greater chance of a cardiovascular event or death.
Compared to those sleeping 6-8 hours, those subjects sleeping more than nine hours a day were often older than age 50, female, hypertensive, smokers, who lived in rural areas, according to the study.
The key conclusion of the study, however, was that sleeping longer was more a symptom of an underlying health problem.
Do products help?
According to Forbes magazine, the sleep industry is on pace to reach about $38 billion per year by 2023. From memory foam mattresses and pillows, to ambient sounds and music, to a variety of medications, many products claim to give users the best night of sleep.
It is not uncommon for people today to spend several thousand dollars on a mattress that adjusts to their body and desired position. Dr. Twery said that any item that can bring together the three components of good sleep: timing, duration, and quality, are advantageous.
Sleep deprivation can bring on a host of medical conditions. Not getting enough sleep can increase the chance of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and other cardiovascular troubles.
Not getting a full night's sleep, even cutting back just one hour a night, can make it harder to focus the next day, increasing the chance of making bad decisions and taking more risks. A recent study published in the European Heart Journal found that those sleeping less than the proper amount tended to be in worse physical shape and more likely to be diabetic.
Tips for Better Sleep
• Stick to a sleep schedule—Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
• Avoid caffeine and nicotine.
• Don't exercise too late in the day.
• Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed.
• Avoid large meals and beverages late at night.
• Don't take a nap after 3 p.m.
• Relax before bed—for example, take a hot bath.
• Create a good sleeping environment. Get rid of distractions such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or a TV or computer in the bedroom.
• See a doctor if you have continued trouble sleeping.
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute