Improve Your Snooze: The Effect of Sleeping Well on Your Overall Health

“Sleep problems are readily treatable,” says Deepti Sharma, MD, a family medicine physician at ThedaCare Physicians-Menasha. “It’s proven that sleep is just as important to your daily function, well-being, and longevity as good nutrition and physical activity.”

Did You Know?

The amount of sleep that you need will fluctuate over your lifetime, but the need for enough rejuvenating sleep never fades. Infants and toddlers require nine to 10 hours of sleep a day, plus two to three hours of naps. School-age children need nine to 11 hours per day, and adults need seven to eight hours.

The phrase “sleep to grow” is indeed accurate. Young people secrete their growth hormones especially during deep sleep.

Older adults may stay in bed longer because their waking cycles are more frequent and they need more time to achieve the same amount of sleep as younger, more consistent sleepers.

Studies show that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability as much as, or more than, being drunk. It's estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.

Good Sleep Strongly Influences Good Health

“Sleep is a time when our body rests, rejuvenates, and regulates hormone levels that affect many important systems in our bodies. Serious health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, depression, obesity, strokes and heart attacks can be linked to poor sleep. “This is why achieving good sleep hygiene, or a consistent rhythm of quality sleep, is so important,” Dr. Sharma says. If you encounter sleeping problems, she recommends several ways to help improve your snooze:

  • Establish a sleep routine and follow your schedule for two full weeks before judging its success. This means setting a consistent bedtime, bedtime routine, and waking time. “Catching up” on sleep on the weekend can actually hurt your efforts, so stick to the schedule every day of the week.
  • Do not engage in exercise up to 2 hours before bedtime, as the endorphins you release during exercise will keep you awake.
  • Dim the lights in your bedroom, and if you use a nightlight, keep it as dim as possible.
  • Avoid caffeine up for up to four hours before bedtime.
  • Try relaxation techniques to “put yourself to bed.” If television, reading, or worrying overly engage your mind, set aside time for these activities earlier in the day or evening. (Yes, if you are a worrier, set a start and stop time for your anxieties and be done with them for the day!). A warm, non-caffeinated drink will signal your body and mind to relax.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol to induce sleep. While the drink may initially make you sleepy, as your body metabolizes the alcohol, you will be prone to frequent waking and bathroom breaks.
  • Never take someone else’s sleeping pills. It’s dangerous to take strong medicine without the supervision of your doctor and pharmacist, especially if it negatively interacts with other medicines or alcohol you make take.
  • Teens and pre-teens especially need good quality, uninterrupted sleep. Remember—sleep regulates growth AND hormone levels—two very important ongoing changes in this stage of their lives. Phones should be completely turned off at bedtime to help ensure a good night’s rest, free of middle-of-the-night texts and posts.
  • Dr. Sharma can also help patients by prescribing medication and other therapies for persistent insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, excessive daytime sleepiness, and problems managing shift work schedules.

Find a doctor who can help you rest, rejuvenate and regulate. Dr. Sharma is accepting new patients at ThedaCare Physicians-Menasha at (920) 832-8500. Or call ThedaCare On Call at (920) 830-6877 or go to www.thedacare.org and click on “Find a Doctor.”