Sleep is a critical part of life, but millions of Americans are having trouble falling asleep and staying a sleep. At least 75% of those who participated in a recent Harvard Women's Health Watch survey said they sleep less than six hours a night, and that they have problems sleep at least a few nights per week.
When sleep problems become chronic, it's important to get help. We need sleep so that the systems in our bodies can go through recovery essential for good health.
Did you know that getting enough quality sleep:
- Improves memory: The brain sorts through and stores information while we sleep. People who sleep well are better able to recall information and learn new things.
- Helps with weight loss and maintaining weight: When we deprive ourselves of sleep over long periods of time, we are disrupting our body's natural flow of horomes that control appetite. Lack of sleep also keeps our bodies from doing their best to process and store the carbohydrates we eat. This can lead to weight gain.
- Helps with heart health (and to fight off many other diseases): When we don't sleep well, studies show that we have a greater chance of hypertension, increased stress, and irregular heartbeat. Not getting enough sleep also affects our immune system. When we don't allow our bodies to rest, we stop them from doing their natural job to fight off disease, including serious disease.
- Lowers our chances of dangerous accidents: Sleep deprivation leads to walking around groggy during the day. When we're not functioning our best, we are more prone to falls, car accidents, and other slip-ups which can cause serious complications.
- Puts us in a better mood: When we're overtired, we're more irritable, impatient, and even angry. We're more likely to thing negative thoughts, feel overwhelmed, and to snap at the people we love and care for.
Doctors who deal with helping people with sleep disorders are having great success with sleep treatments and therapies. In fact, after just a few weeks of getting more consistent, quality sleep, patients ssay they feel like a new person. They are happier, more energetic, ambitious, and satisfied with what they are able to accomplish.
There are a variety of things that make it tough for us to get a good night's sleep. Here are some. Do any of them sound familiar? Identifying the things that bother you makes it that much easier to work through those issues.
Anxiety - deep, frequesnt feelings of worry, fear helplessness, and hopelessness
Stress - the pressure of coping with all the things in your life that require some kind of response from you
Depression - an all-too-common mental disorder that can make you feel very sad, tired, and discouraged
Hormonal Changes - whether its PMS, pregnancy, menopause, or everything in between, our hormones fluctuate constantly and may affect our sleep
Age - as we get older, or malatonin levels decrease. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to promote and control sleep
Pain - muscle strain, stiff necks, and sore backs and joints are common sleep theives
Your Genes - some studies show that sleep problems may be linked to family history
Medications - many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause insomnia. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the possible side effects of your medication. Speak up about any sleep problmes you may be having. Sometimes, it may simply be an issue of taking your medications at a different time of day---but talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medical treatment.