Sleep Disruption is More Than Just Missing Sweet Dreams
Monday, February 25, 2019
Posted by: Roy Muyinza
By: Melissa Parmer, RN, CCM, MBA
Sleep: It’s one of the most important parts of our daily lives, regardless of where a person falls on the age spectrum.
Important enough for both the Romans and Greeks to dedicate a sleep-related figure in their respective mythologies, sleep has its place in both history and present day. Browse through the children’s section of your local book store, and you will encounter dozens of stories and nursery rhymes dedicated to the matter. For adults, a great number of publications and supplements geared towards wellness and sleep are advertised in person, online and on television.
Why We Sleep
Previously thought to be a chunk of time spent in an “inactive state,” sleep is now known and respected as an opportunity for our bodies and minds to heal, regenerate, and process what we have learned. Sleep impacts learning and creativity and enhances our abilities to make decisions, solve problems, and control our behavior and emotions, including our ability to get along with others. Sleep deficiency can decrease our ability to perform tasks vital to the roles we play at home, work and school.
Sleep also affects our physical health: Deficiencies can change our immune system’s ability to respond to threats, including common infections. Sleep also supports our bodies’ growth and development — including fertility and puberty — and deep sleep triggers hormones for muscle mass, cell repair and tissue growth.
Promoting good sleep also promotes cardiovascular health. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study revealed that healthy, sound helps bone marrow, brain and blood vessels protect against atherosclerosis. Weight gain, obesity, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart disease, depression and an increased risk of death have been associated with sleep deprivation.
Why We Don’t Sleep
Despite a seemingly growing body of evidence hailing the importance of sleep, many Americans continue to remain in a state of sleep deficiency. A Gallup Poll reports that Americans sleep an average of 6.8 hours per night while the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the NIH report that fewer than half of American adults get the recommended seven hours per day.
Threats to healthy sleep may come in the form of existing medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, renal disease, restless leg syndrome or thyroid conditions. Other barriers and causes of sleep disruption may be created by personal habits, such as ingesting caffeine too late in the day or using devices emitting blue light (such as cell phones and television), or simply staying up too late and too often.
Many studies have focused on occupational conditions, such as extended work hours, shift work or irregular work hours, which provide little opportunity to engage in a consistent sleep schedule.
Lifestyle changes, temporary and long-term, can lead to interrupted sleep. Parents of young children or caretakers of ill family members may experience sleep disruptions due to related care.
Environmental and housing arrangements — such as residing in an area with audible disruptions are frequent, or the air is too warm or cold — may serve as a barrier to uninterrupted sleep as patients may not be able to rest in an environment that is quiet and conducive to sleep.
Not all sleep disruptions are created equal. A patient experiencing sleep disruption due to a short-term medical condition may easily return to normal sleep patterns. But long-term medical conditions or situations can contribute to chronic sleep disorders. Up to seventy million people in the United States have a chronic sleep disorder impacting their health and daily functioning.
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