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Not Sleeping Enough is Dangerous
Posted May 13, 2008
Not getting enough sleep lately? Lack of sleep will make you crabby and affect your physical health. Lack of sleep will affect your memory now and when you are old. Actually, lack of sleep can kill you, according to Dr. Laura Pawlak, a biochemist and immunologist. She is a guest lecturer for INR, a nonprofit, scientific organization dedicated to research and education in science and medicine. INR is the nation's largest provider of live, continuing education seminars in science and medicine.
Dr. Pawlak said, "Your brain is so interconnected that if you destroy one part, you eventually destroy it all." Many factors can contribute to brain destruction including the obvious ones such as physical trauma, or drug and alcohol abuse, but there are also the more innocent-seeming, yet destructive, factors of stress, anger-and lack of sleep.
The brain is unique in the body in that its cells must "connect" to others to survive. Pawlak said a liver cell, if put in a Petri dish and given nutrition, will live its normal lifespan, but a brain cell will not. Brain neurons must interact with other neurons. "If a neuron is destroyed, the whole pathway is going to fall apart." she said. "The brain is the control tower for everything. Our actions, thoughts and lifestyle change that brain for better or for worse."
And one of those "actions" and "lifestyle" factors is sleep. The right amount keeps the brain healthy. Too much sleep or too little sleep impairs brain function.
"We're trying to educate people to keep their brains well," she said. If they don't, half of the people reaching age 80 will have Alzheimer's disease. "It's not about genetics here. We're talking about lifestyle," she emphasizes. Sleep is one of the major factors in lifestyle choices. We are supposed to spend one-third of our lives sleeping. There are biological reasons for that length of time.
Different kinds of sleep create growth in the body, repair the body, and rejuvenate the mind, and some of those functions not only depend on sleep, but also on dreaming. Pawlak explains that when people are stressed, eat a poor diet, and get little or no exercise-all factors controllable with lifestyle-sleep suffers, and that affects the brain.
Sleep is composed of cycles, each with certain characteristics and functions, and each important to rest and repair of the body. Sleep runs in patterns lasting about 90 to 110 minutes, passing through different cycles needed by the brain and body. The two main cycles are non-rapid eye movement sleep and rapid eye movement sleep (REM). During wakefulness, the brain operates in fast alpha or beta waves.
Stages of Sleep
When sleep is beginning, you have the sensation of "nodding off' as the brain moves into Stage 1 sleep-very light theta waves of four to seven cycles per second. You are somewhat aware of your surroundings, but you don't care about them. About 5 minutes are spent in Stage 1, or about 2-5% of the 90- to 110minute cycle. During Stage 1, the body's temperature drops, the muscles relax, and the eyes move slowly from side to side beneath the closed eyelids. It is a drowsy feeling that eventually becomes loss of awareness of surroundings. During Stage 1, it is easy to awaken the person.
From Stage 1, the body moves into Stage 2, or true light theta sleep during which the brain waves slow even more. But the brain waves speed up for a halfsecond or longer periodically, and then "spikes" in the waves occur every 2 minutes or so.
Although it's a mystery why this happens, it is thought that it is a survival mechanism for vigilance even though the body is trying to fall asleep. During Stage 2 sleep, eye movement stops, and respiration and pulse slow. About 45-60% of the sleep cycle of 90 to 110 minutes is spent in Stage 2.
Next comes Stage 3 sleep, when renewal and restoration of the body can be accomplished. Large and slow delta waves begin at about one to two cycles per second. Breathing is regular, blood pressure falls and the pulse rate slows by about 20-30%.
The brain is less responsive to external stimuli, and it is more difficult to awaken someone in Stage 3 sleep. If awakened from Stage 3, the person will be groggy, confused and will exhibit a poor memory. Stage 3 sleep starts about 10 to 20 minutes after sleep begins, and lasts for about 15 to 30 minutes of the 90- to 110-minute cycle. Most of Stage 3 sleep occurs in the first three to four hours of sleep.
The early, deep, slow wave sleep of Stage 3 progresses to Stage 4 with deep, slow delta waves. In fact, about half of the sleep at this stage is delta waves. The pituitary gland is busy making human growth hormone for muscle repair and new tissue growth. Blood inter-leukin immune messengers are increased to activate the immune system and defend against infection. There is less flow of blood to the brain so the brain actually cools down. Hair grows, skin renews, tissue grows, etc., as healing and renewal occur during this stage of sleep. Pawlak said, "Physically, if you're going to repair, you must be going into deep sleep."
It is during Stage 4 that conditions such as sleepwalking and snoring can occur, but not dreaming. If awakened from Stage 4 sleep, the person will be confused and disoriented. Stage 4 sleep is needed to give a person a feeling of refreshment after sleeping. People who are chronically sleep deprived will move into Stage 4 sleep faster than others and spend a greater proportion of their sleep time in deep sleep. It is a cycle of sleep that is absolutely essential for health. Chronic deep sleep deprivation is fatal. Exercise during the day promotes and enhances Stage 3 and 4 deep sleep.
Next is Stage 5 sleep when rapid eye movement (REM) occurs. It has very fast and irregular brain waves. The skeletal muscles actually "paralyze," most likely so that the vivid and violent dreams occurring cannot actually be acted out by the body. The eyes move rapidly, mostly side to side.
It is a time when long-term memories are sorted, consolidated, and "filed" by the brain and a time when the brain restores itself. Memory function and REM sleep are closely linked. REM sleep is when learning and memory are facilitated. Body temperature and blood pressure rise, and pulse and respiration are at their daytime rates.
REM sleep occurs about every 90 minutes through the night, but toward morning, the amount of REM sleep increases to its maximum of about 50% of sleep. If deprived of REM sleep, a person is moody, irritable or crabby and has memory impairment. Alcohol and most sleep medications suppress the needed REM sleep. The memory is affected by the amount of REM sleep obtained, so REM sleep influences the quality of sleep and the health of both short-term and long-term memory.
After the person goes through these stages, a new sleep cycle of about 90 to 110 minutes begins, and this repeats through the night for a total of about five or six times, until the person awakens to begin a new day. In all, about 50% of sleep is Stage 2; 20% is Stages 1,3 and 4; 20% is REM sleep, and the remainder is the transitions.
The absolute bare minimum of sleep needed to live (not thrive) is 4 hours, but it is not healthy to get only that amount, night after night. More sleep is needed for health, renewal, learning and memory. Within each sleep cycle, the amount of time spent in each stage will vary (called "sleep architecture"). In normal sleeping patterns, the first two cycles will have a short Stage 5 REM and longer Stage 3 and Stage 4 sleep. As the night progresses, deep sleep shortens and REM sleep lengthens. Near morning, nearly all the sleep is Stage 1 and 2 and REM sleep.
Dreaming plays an important role in sleep and health. Dreaming is probably not just an act of the brain trying to make sense of random imagery coming from brain electrical impulses pulled from the memory-the brain trying to make a logical or cohesive "story" out of the imagery. More likely, the brain dreams because it is processing information. "We do the deep sleep first," said Pawlak, then we have more dreams toward the moming hours, especially in Stage 5 REM sleep.
Why we dream is not really known, but in dreams, activities are analyzed, emotional upsets are worked through, irrelevant information may be forgotten to eliminate things accidental, repetitious or meaningless, and, sometimes, solutions to problems are obtained.
Most dreams last 5 to 20 minutes and can be in black and white or color. Dreams that occur just before awakening are usually remembered best, or if the person is awakened while dreaming, the dream is usually recalled. About five minutes after a dream, we usually forget half of the dream, and about 10 minutes after a dream, we forget about 90% of it.
Shift Work and Sleep
Disruptions of the sleep cycle from shift work create problems for the circadian rhythm and the quality and quantity of sleep. These disruptions are usually manifested in such symptoms as shallow and/or fitful sleep, headaches, difficulty in concentrating, and upset stomachs. Humans have been programmed for thousands of years to be active during the day and asleep at night. With fire and electricity came changes to that normal cycle.
Presently, about 40-55% of American workers are on evening, night or rotating shifts. Of that group, 60-70% have some kind of sleep disturbances. Shift workers fall asleep at work two to five times more often than day workers. Shift workers suffer higher risks of heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders (including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, heartbum, and gastroesophageal reflux disease), certain cancers, and obstructive sleep apnea.
Shift workers have weaker immune systems. They are more likely to have emotional problems and experience higher rates of divorce and social relationship difficulties. Shift workers make more mistakes than day workers, lack ability to focus and pay attention, and have a higher rate of traffic accidents-all potentially life-threatening factors for those in law enforcement.
Shift workers average only about five or six hours of sleep-far below the necessary seven to nine hours of sleep. That deficit translates to 15 to 20 hours of lost sleep each week. The cycles most likely disrupted by shift work are Stage 2 light sleep, and Stage 5 REM sleep.
Suggestions for Sleeping
For shift workers, Pawlak suggests making sure that the bedroom is as dark as possible or wearing a sleep mask. "Let yourself naturally awaken, no alarm, no night light," at least once a week to help make up some of the sleep deprivation that might come with shift work. "That will help regenerate you."
A few people are "night owls," she said, who have a different circadian rhythm and their melatonin peaks at a different time. These people can be healthy if they work a night shift, but the vast majority of people need some extra help such as a dark room (or mask) and more hours of sleep.
If you wake up refreshed, that's a good sign that you slept well. To help assure good quality of sleep, be in a darkened room, do easy stretches close to bedtime, exercise regularly, perhaps later in the day, and take a walk after dinner, i.e., make your body physically tired.
Drink liquids earlier in the day to avoid having to get up in the night. If taken at night or early evening, even small amounts of diuretics such as alcohol, coffee, tea and cocoa, will stimulate urine production and cause nocturia-having to get up more than once in the night to urinate. Most people can sleep 6 to 8 hours without getting up, and one time up is still within the "healthy" range. But multiple trips to the bathroom, especially if done in any kind of light, including nightlights, disturbs the sleep cycles.
Try to mimic the natural pattern of dusk to dark, the time when we would naturally slow down and ready for sleep. Just turning off the lights in the house and telling yourself that it is time to go to sleep doesn't work. The body doesn't catch up with your intent that fast. It takes at least an hour for most people to wind down (like dusk would do in nature). Bring down the brighter lights early in the evening or use indirect lighting. Decrease light and relax to wind down, do some stretches, and go to bed.
Regularly getting too little sleep is dangerous to your health, but so is regularly getting too much sleep. Although not a problem for many, hypersomnia-sleeping 10 to 12 hours, night after night-should be avoided. Pawlak said strive for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
Losing sleep night after night creates a cumulative sleep deficit. Teens are especially prone to this, but it can occur in adults, too. Chronic sleep deprivation causes serious health problems and even death. Even sleep deprivation for 24 hours can cause significant brain changes and affect judgment, impulse, attention, visual association, and mood. Chronic sleep deficit increases risks of diabetes (because of the reduced capacity to metabolize glucose), impaired immune response, increased obesity, higher rates of depression, and decreased growth in children.
Snoring Is Serious
One disrupting problem for the sleeper and the sleeper's partner is snoring. Pawlak said, "Snoring is a prelude to sleep apnea," and it is potentially dangerous. Because snoring is a partial, upper airway closing or blockage, remedies focus on ways to keep the airway open such as with dental appliances, airwayopening devices, and such things as weight loss, use of a humidifier in the room, reducing consumption of alcohol, stopping smoking, and reducing swollen nasal passages.
Sleep apnea is correlated with a history of snoring and affects breathing, disrupting or stopping it during sleep for 10 seconds or more. The low oxygen from not breathing awakens the person and, hence, disturbs the sleep pattern. The resulting fragmented sleep and lowered levels of blood oxygen can promote hypertension, heart disease, stroke, changes in mood, and memory problems, and risks of increased accidents, reduced job productivity, and social relationship problems. Weight loss can help reduce sleep apnea, but a physician should be consulted for both snoring and sleep apnea problems.
Regular Schedule of Good Sleep
Restful and restorative sleep is your goal. Know what amount of sleep feels right to you and get that amount on a consistent basis. Most people need 7 to 9 hours. Keeping a diary of your waking and sleeping schedule can clue you to what makes you feel refreshed and ready for your day. Minimize wake-ups in the night. Sleep should be continuous. Go to sleep and wake up at the about the same times every day, including the weekends. Set a pattern that works with your body's circadian rhythm.
Exercise promotes good nighttime sleep, so exercise daily, then stretch or do yoga just before bedtime. Eat dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime (no night snacks). Avoid alcohol, smoking and chronic use of sleep medications. Keep the bedroom dark, with no nightlights or lighted dials. Wear an eye mask if necessary. Spend part of your day in sunlight and bright light.
Defuse your worries, stresses and anxieties to relax before bedtime. Use easy exercise or gentle stretches, a leisurely walk after dinner, meditation, prayer, listening to quiet music or deep breathing exercises. Set a bedtime ritual that works for you such as brushing your teeth, doing some light reading, gradually decreasing the lighting, and preparing your body and mind for sleep.
Help yourself feel comfortable, relaxed and assured. Your sleep depends on the choices you make in your life. Do what promotes restful sleep. Your present and future health will benefit.
© 2008 Law & Order. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company
Douglas Laboratories 2008
How To Get A Better Night's Sleep
Posted May 8, 2008
While weary, overextended Americans are turning to "quick fixes" like caffeine and performance-enhancing supplements, which claim to improve everything from their daily workout to their sex lives, they are losing sight of what experts say is essential to improved performance: a good night's sleep.
According to the 2008 Better Sleep Month (BSM) national survey, sponsored by the Better Sleep Council (BSC), those respondents getting nine hours of sleep or more are more likely to engage in higher-intensity workouts, including biking, running and/or weight lifting.
Yet an alarming seven in 10 (70 percent) report that they are not getting the recommended amount of sleep needed each night (7 1/2 hours or more) to perform at their best each day.
"Sleep deprivation impacts us physically, which can negatively affect our coordination, agility, mood and energy," says Dr. Bert Jacobson, professor and head of the School of Educational Studies at Oklahoma State University (OSU) and the lead author of the new study Grouped Comparisons of Sleep Quality for New and Personal Bedding Systems.
"Research shows that sleeping better and longer leads to improvements in athletic performance, including faster sprint time, better endurance, lower heart rate, and even improved mood and higher levels of energy during a workout."
One out of three survey respondents agrees, stating that the best thing about getting a good night's sleep is improved physical performance. However, the BSC explains that better sleep and/or improved physical performance is not just a result of getting one extra hour of sleep a night. "Getting a better night's sleep is about making a larger investment in sleep overall, including taking a closer look at your sleep surface and surroundings. Improving sleep quality is just as important as quantity," adds Dr. Jacobson.
A New Mattress Does a Body Good
The survey also reveals that respondents who report getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night (7.5 hours is optimal) are more likely to be sleeping on a newer mattress (one to four years old). Additionally, findings reveal that those sleeping on a newer mattress are significantly more likely to engage in physical activities than those who sleep on older mattresses:
Type of Physical Newer Mattress Older Mattress
Activity (one - four years old) (eight -10 years old)
Running 59% 6%
Weights 54% 8%
Aerobics 57% 9%
The same survey found that 81 percent of Americans report waking up with back, neck or shoulder pain in the past year, with nearly half (46 percent) of respondents reporting that they frequently (at least a few times a month) wake up with these types of pain that limit their physical performance.
There's good news, however, for the majority of people suffering with limited mobility due to back and neck pain. According to Dr. Jacobson's study, published in the Journal of Applied Ergonomics, sleeping on a new mattress can significantly improve sleep quality during the night and reduce physical pain during the day. In fact, when sleeping on new bedding systems, study respondents on average reported significant improvements in:
* lower back pain (62.8 percent),
* shoulder pain (62.4 percent),
* back stiffness (58.4 percent),
* sleep quality (64.4 percent), and
* sleep comfort (69.6 percent).
"Like your favorite pair of athletic shoes, your mattress can still feel comfortable long after it has lost its ability to provide your body with the comfort and support it needs," said Karin Dillner, BSC spokesperson. "And just as we need the proper equipment to get the best workout, we also need the proper equipment to get the best night's sleep -- most importantly, a quality mattress."
The BSC recommends that consumers evaluate their current mattress by asking themselves four basic questions to determine if it's time for a mattress upgrade:
* Is your mattress five - seven years old or older?
* Do you wake up with stiffness, numbness, aches and pains?
* Do you get a better night's sleep somewhere other than your own bed
(such as a hotel)?
* Does your mattress show visible signs of overuse (sags, stains, etc.)?
The BSC's E.A.S.E. Method provides consumers with easy steps for finding and purchasing the mattress of their dreams. For more information, visit http://www.bettersleep.org/ease.
For more tips on how to Start Every Day with a Good Night's Sleep™ during Better Sleep Month, and to download the Better Sleep Guide brochure for simple solutions that can help improve the quality of your performance by improving the quality of your sleep, please visit http://www.bettersleep.org.
Dr. Bert Jacobson, performance expert, researcher, professor and author of Grouped Comparisons of Sleep Quality for New and Personal Bedding Systems, is available for comment regarding this study and the important role a mattress plays in the quality of one's life. Please contact Kristen Ekey at 202-828-8855 or [email protected] for more information.
About the Better Sleep Council: Established in 1979, the Better Sleep Council (BSC) is the consumer education division of the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA). The BSC is devoted to educating the public about the importance of sleep to good health and quality of life, and about the value of the sleep system and sleep environment in pursuit of a good night's sleep.
Survey findings are taken from a survey of 1,000 people, conducted by the polling company™, inc., from January 18-21, 2008. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
SOURCE Better Sleep Council
Most people spend approximately one-third of their entire life lying in bed. The quality of
your mattress can make a huge difference between waking up feeling refreshed and waking
up in pain. In fact, old worn-out mattresses are an extremely common contributor to chronic
back and neck pain. Good health and sleep are closely linked. Just as we improve our eating
habits for better health, we should also improve our sleep habits. Good sleep not only reduces
back problems, it also helps to prepare us for a more productive day. If you think that your
mattress may be past its prime, here are some tips to help you select the right mattress for you:
• There is no single mattress that works well for all people. Look for a mattress
that is adjustable in firmness and support for you.
• Find a mattress that has proper support for good sleep posture. Good sleep
posture is nearly the same as good standing posture, with the ear, shoulder,
hip and ankle all in alignment. This will require different levels of support for
different parts of the body.
• Mattress firmness and support are not the same. Mattress firmness describes
comfort and conformability. Look for a mattress that is comfortable.
• Look for a mattress that manages temperature and moisture.
• Know when it's time to get a new mattress. If an old mattress sags visibly in
the middle, it is definitely time to purchase a new one. Putting boards under
a sagging mattress is only a short-term fix and may cause more back problems
and low back pain in the long run.
• Shop for the best value and quality of the mattress rather than for price. Finding
a high-quality mattress is usually worth the investment, considering the effect a
mattress can have on your overall health and comfort. A mattress with replaceable
parts can extend the mattress life and maximize your investment.
• Give the mattress a test-run in your home. When shopping, many people spend
a few minutes on a mattress in a showroom. They usually spend more time checking
the comfort of a couch! It is not possible to determine if a mattress is right for you
unless you sleep on it for many nights. If two people will be sleeping on the mattress,
both should test it at the same time to make sure they have enough space and to
determine if it is right for them.
• Look for a mattress designed to eliminate the need to flip or rotate (and possibly
injuring yourself in the process).
The 2 mattress types that our doctors are regularly asked about are the memory foam
and adjustable air mattresses. We have patients that recommend and swear by both,
however the biggest complaint with the memory foam mattress is that it becomes warm
or hot to the body. Dr. Schertell and his wife sleep on a Sleep Number Bed from
Select Comfort® and they also have an Adjustable Air Bed from the
SleepBetterStore.com for their teenage son. In their opinion, both the qualty and
the cost of the bed from the SleepBetterStore is/was much better than the
Sleep Number Bed from Select Comfort®. Both companies will allow a
30-day in-home free trial but you will be responsible for the cost of shipping back
the bed should you choose to return it. Instead, you can consider spending at least
1 night in a Raddison Hotel which offer Sleep Number Beds by Select Comfort.
Compare SleepBetterStore to Select Comfort®
Go to the website: http://www.sleepbetterstore.com/ and check it out
If you decide to place an order, mention the code DR586 and save an
The sleepbetterstore also offers memory foam mattresses
that compare to Tempur-Pedic mattresses.
Go to the website:http://www.angelbeds.com/ for more information.
If you decide to place an order, mention the code DR586 and save an